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Tenryu-ji

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The Sôgenchi gardens at Tenryû-ji, designed by Musô Soseki
For the temple in Okinawa, see Tenryu-ji (Okinawa).
  • Founded: 1339, Ashikaga Takauji
  • Other Names: 霊亀山 (Reiki-zan), 天龍資聖禅寺 (Tenryuu shiseizenji)
  • Japanese: 天龍寺 (Tenryuu-ji)

Tenryû-ji (lit. Heavenly Dragon Temple), located in the Arashiyama neighborhood of Kyoto, is the head temple of the Tenryû-ji branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism.

The temple was founded in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji, who established it in honor of Emperor Go-Daigo, who died earlier that year. Musô Soseki served as the first chief priest of the temple. Soseki is said to have designed the temple's garden, Sôgenchi, which is said to be one of the oldest in Japan, and to be in largely the same form as when Soseki designed it in the 14th century. The garden has thus been designated a scenic and historical site by the national government, and a World Heritage Site, in 1994, by UNESCO.[1]. The temple also houses a number of Important Cultural Properties, including a portrait of Soseki.

History

The site was previously that of a villa built by Emperor Kameyama in the 13th century, and Kameyama's grandson, Emperor Go-Daigo, was raised and educated in large part there.

The temple was originally called Ryakuô Shisei-zenji, after the Ryakuô era in which it was founded; after Takauji's younger brother Ashikaga Tadayoshi had a dream of a golden dragon, the temple was renamed Tenryû Shisei-zenji. Construction was funded chiefly by a combination of donations, and income from a set of trading ships known as the Tenryûji-sen ("Tenryû-ji ships"), which journeyed to Yuan Dynasty China, and through which the temple became quite wealthy. Construction of the temple's main buildings was completed by 1343, and Tenryû-ji came to be considered the first among the so-called Kyoto Five Mountains (Kyôto gozan; Kyoto's top five Zen temples)[2]

Over the centuries, the temple suffered damage from fire, and was rebuilt, on roughly eight occasions. The most recent extensive reconstruction of the temple was in 1864; most of the buildings extant today thus date to the Meiji period, or are more recent. The abbot's quarters, or hôjô, houses the temple's oldest sacred sculpture, an image of Shakamuni dating to the Fujiwara period.

References

  • Pamphlets available on-site.
  • Plaques on-site.
  1. As part of the group Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)."
  2. Nanzen-ji is ranked above the Five Mountains, however, and thus above Tenryû-ji.

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