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The Kohfukuji Temple Complex

History of Kohfukuji

The origins of Kohfukuji date to the eighth year of the reign of EmperorTenji (669 AD) when Kagami-no-Okimi, consort of the statesman Fujiwara-no-Kamatari, established a temple at the family estate in Yamashina Suehara(modern-day Kyoto prefecture) to pray for the recovery of Kamatari's illness.This early Fujiwara tutelary temple was first known as Yamashina-dera. Inthe temple Kagami-no-Okimi enshrined images of a Shaka triad (Sakyamuni, thehistorical Buddha, along with two attendants), which had originally beencommissioned at the behest of Kamatari upon his defeat of the Soga clan in645. A few years later the temple was moved to Umayasaka in Nara prefecture,and named Umayasaka-dera.


With the establishment of the capital at Nara (traditionally called Heijokyo)in 710, Yamashina-dera was the first temple to be relocated,and was moved toits present location in a central block of the city.The temple, renamedKohfukuji, grew rapidly in size and wealth under the patronage of successive


emperors and empresses, and members of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Itdeveloped a particularly close connection with the“Northern”branch of theFujiwara family, under whose sponsorship the temple gained considerablepower. Kohfukuji ranked as one of the“Four Great Temples”of the Naraperiod, and one of the“Seven Great Temples”of the Heian period.


During the Heian period, Kohfukuji exercised virtual control over KasgaShrine, and became a dominant political power in the Yamato province. In theKamakura (1185-1332) and Muromachi (1533-1568) periods, the Shogunate madeKohfukuji the“protector”of the province of Yamato, but the resources ofthetemple were steadily eroded during the latter years of the Muromachi.In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) attempted to revive Kofkuji as a purely religious establishment through as annual endowment of over 21,000 koku ofrice, which made possible the renovation and reconstruction of many templebuildings.


Kohfukuji was severely affected by the anti-Buddhist policies of theearly years of the Meiji era, at which time Kasuga shrine became inde-pendent under the government ordinance forcing the separation of Shintoshrines and Buddhist temples. The majority of Kohfukuji's property wasconfiscated at that time, but the temple managed to recover and continues today as a head temple of the Hosso sect.

The Religion of Kohfukuji

Kohfukuji is one of the head temples of the Hosso(“dharma characteristics”)sect of Buddhism. The Hosso sect is also known as the yuishiki(“mind only”)sect.The teaching was first brought to China from India by the T'ang Dynastymonk Genjo (Chinese: Hsuan Tsang), whose travels are well known from hisjournal entitled “Travels to the West” (Chinese: Hsi yu chi). Genjotransmitted the Hosso teachings, as found in the Yuishiki-ron (“Treatise onMind Only”),to his disciple Jion Daishi (Chinese: Tz'u-en Ta-shih),who isconsidered the founder of the Hosso school in China. These doctrines were introduced to Kohfukuji by the monk Genbo (d. 746), who studied in China from716-735.

Annual Services and Festivals at Kohfukuji

February,on Setsubun Day: Demon Chasing Ceremony; Eastern Golden Holl.
February 15: Nirvana Ceremony (in commemoration of the death of the Buddha);Main office complex.
March 5 : Ceremony in Memorial of Genjo; Main office complex.
April 8 : Buddha's Birthday Ceremony; Southern Octagnal Hall.
April 17 : Life Releasing Ceremony; Hitokoto-Kannon Hall.
April 25 : Manjusri Ceremony; Eastern Golden Holl,
May 11/12 : Takigi Noh (performance of Noh drama); Southern Main Gate.
July 7 : Benzaiten Festival; Three Storied Pagoda.
October 17 : Daihannya Ceremony; Southern Octagonal Hall.
November 13 : Ceremony in Memorial of Jion Daishi; Kari-kondo (north of the Central Golden Hall).

Association of Friends of Kohfukuji

The Association of Friends of Kohfukuji is made up of those who desire todevelop a closer connection with the temple and strengthen their ties withBuddhism. Members receive complimentary passes to exhibitions, issues of thetemple newsletter, and invitations to the annual ceremonies and events atthe temple. You are invited to inquire further. Annual dues are \3000.

Lecture Series on Buddhist Culture

Specialists in various subjets related to Buddhism and Buddhist Art areinvited to the temple to speak on their areas of expertise. Lectures areheld on the second Saturday of every month, beginning at 1 p.m., and areheld in the Kohfukuji Meeting Hall. The lectures are free and all areinvited to attend. (Lectures are in Japanese.)

The Kohfukuji National Treasure Museum

The Museum was built to house the various statues, paintings, bookscraftworks and historical documents which have been designated NationalTreasures or Important Cultural Properties. The Museum, completed in 1959 ,was opened to the public in the hope that it would contribute to a deeperunderstanding of Buddhism, and a heightened appreciation of Buddhistcultural artifacts. Besides the permanent display which includes such wellknown pieces as the standing Asura, and the head of Yakushi Nyorai, there isalso a special exhibition which is changed three times a year .

Entrance fees

Adults and university students : \ 600 (tour groups : \ 500)
Junior high and high school students : \ 500 (tour groups : \ 400)
Primary school students : \ 200 (tour groups : \ 150)
Open daily all year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. parking is available .

Combination ticket

(The Kohfukuji National Treasure Museum & The Eastern Golden Hall)

Adults and university students : \ 800 (tour groups : \ 800)
Junior high and high school students : \ 600 (tour groups : \ 600)
Primary school students : \ 250 (tour groups : \ 250)
Open daily all year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. parking is available .

The Central Golden Hall

According to historical documens the constructiorn of this building wasbegun in 710 at the behest of Fujiwara Fuhito, and completed in 714 .Thepresent structure -- a restoration that dates to 1811 -- has suffered heavyrain damage and is no longer functional. In order to halt the deteriorationof the statues they have been moved to the Kari-kondo (“Temporary GoldenHall”) to the immediate north , which was once the site of the Sutra Hall.These images include the main alter piece, being an image of SakyamuniBuddha, as well as Yakuo (The Medicine King), Bhaisajyasamudgata Bodhisattva(an Important Cultural Property), and the Shi Tenno (Four Deva Kings,Important Cultural Properties) .

The Eastern Golden Hall (National treasure)

There are three“Golden Halls”at Kohfukuji, all of which take their namesaccording to their location in the temple complex. The original structurewas built at the behest of the Emperor Shomu in 726 to speed the recovery ofthe ailing Empress Gensho. The current building dates to 1415. Enshrinedwithin are Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru, the mainalter piece, and anImportant Cultural Property), Nikko Bosatsu andGakko Bosatsu (Suryaprabha and Candraprabha, both important CulturalProperties), Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri, a National Treasure), Yuima Koji (theLayman Vimalakirti, a National Treasure), Shi Tenno (Four Deva Kings,National Treasures), and Juni Shinsho (Twelve Heavenly Generals, NationalTreasures). This building is open to the public seven days a week, from9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Entrance fees

Adults and university students : \ 300 (tour groups : \ 250)
Junior high and high school students : \ 200 (tour groups : \ 150)
Primary school students : \ 100 (tour groups : \ 90)
Open daily all year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. parking is available .

The Five Storied Pagoda (National Treasures)

This pagoda was constructed by the Empress Komyo in 725. The currentbuilding is a restoration completed in 1426, and is the second highestpagoda in Japan, rising 50.1 meters. Inside the structure on the firstlevel, enshrined around the central pillar are a Yakushi triad (to theeast), a Shaka triad (to the south), an Amida triad (to the west), and aMiroku triad (to the north).

The Northern Octagonal Hall (National Treasure)

The Northern Octagonal Hall was originally built by the Empress Genmeiand the Emperor Gensho in 72l, to honor the first anniversary of the deathof Fujiwara Fuhito. The current building is a reconstruction which dates toapproximately 1210. The images inside are by the hand of the renownKamakura period sculptor Unkei. These include the main alter image ofMiroku Nyorai (Maitreya), the Bodhisattvas Mujaku and Seshin (Asanga andVasubandhu), and the Shi Tenno (Four Deva Kings) , all of which are NationalTreasures. This building is open to the public only during special viewingperiods in the spring and fall. (The dates of the openings vary from year toyear. Please inquire further for detaiis.)

The Southern Octagonal Hall

This hall is temple number nine of the West Japan thirty-three templepilgrimage route. The hall was first constructled in 813 by Fujiwara-no-Fuyutsugu, though the present building is a reconstruction which dates to1789. Inside the hall are enshrined the main altar piece Fukukensaku Kannon(Amoghapasa-avalokitesvara,“Avalokitesvara of the Unfailing Fishing Line”),statues of the six patriarchs of the Hosso school, and the Shi Tenno ( FourDeva Kings), all of which are National Treasures. The hall is open to thepublic only once a year, on October 17.

The Hitokoto Kannon Hall

This building, relocated to this site during the Meiji period, houses ahidden image of Hitokoto Kannon, or“Avalokitesvara of a Single Ut-terance”.This name for Kannon (Avalokitesvara) is derived from thebelief that if one sincerely recites Kannon's name, Kannon is sure torespond to the devotees prayer.

The Fudo Hall

This building, constructed during the Meiji era, houses an image of FudoMyoo (Acalanatha, or simply Acala, “mmovable”), the messenger of theBuddha who destroys evil. A fire ceremony (goma) is performed here onthe 1st, 15th and 28th of each month.

The Three Storied Pagoda (National Treasure)

This pagoda was built at the behest of the consort of the EmperorSutoku, in 1143. The present building is a reconstruction which datesto the beginning of the Kamakura period. On the first story are fourpaintings on wood depicting 1000 images each of Yakushi Nyorai (east),Shaka Nyorai (south), Amida Nyorai (west), and Miroku (north).

The Bath House (Important Cultural Property)

The earthen floor bath house, rebuilt around the middle of the Muromachiperiod, contains two large iron cauldrons for heating water. The build-ing has a gable roof on the east side, and a hip-gable roof on the west.

Omido

This building is also known from various Japanese folk tales as the Hallof Thirteen Bells. This hall was first completed during the Naraperiod, but the current structure dates from around 1580. Inside thehall are enshrined Amida Nyorai (an Important Cultural Property),Yakushi Nyorai, Fukukensaku Kannnon, and Chigo Kanon.

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