|A Legacy of the Magnificent Culture of
the 12th Century
The Golden Hall (Kondo) of Chusonji Temple, a National Treasure, was built in 1124. The building is now sheltered by a protective concrete building, which was built in the 20th century, because the interior and exterior of the Hall is plated with glittering gold. The Hall is a reminiscence of the prosperity and culture of the region.
Chusonji Temple stands in the town of Hiraizumi, Iwate
Prefecture, in north-eastern Japan, now a small agricultural town with
a population of less than ten thousand. However, in the 12th century, the
region was a leading producer of gold and there flourished a magnificent
aristocratic culture. In the late 11th century, the Fujiwara family, descendants
of an offshoot of the distinguished family in Kyoto, settled in Hiraizumi
and became powerful rulers of northern Japan. Since then, three generations
of the family prospered here until they were overthrown in 1189.
Chusonji Temple was originally founded in 850 and rebuilt by the Fujiwara family. Rebuilding started in 1105 and lasted for 21 years during which pagodas, halls, gate, bell tower, repository, and many other buildings were built in succession. In the finished complex there were over 40 temples and shrines, as well as 300 cells for priests. However, after the collapse of the Fujiwara family the prestige of the temple declined, and a fire in 1337 destroyed all the buildings except for the Golden Hall; it survived thanks to the first protective building built in 1288, and part of the sutra repository. All other buildings remaining today except for the Golden Hall were those rebuilt in the 17th century.
The Golden Hall is also a grave of the three successive heads of the Fujiwara family. On the altars under which three coffins are stored stand rows of golden Buddhist statues and accouterments, and those altars, the ceilings, and pillars are gorgeously decorated with gold, silver and jewels.
Photos: The Golden Hall of Chusonji Temple (Iwate Prefecture); The Golden Hall in autumn colors (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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