Japan Atlas: Historic Sites 


Location: Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture

Area: 2,000 ha (5,000acres)

Founded: by Priest Saicho in 788

Status: The Head Temple of Tendai Sect

National Treasure building: Konpon-chudo, Kondo-kyo-bako, Hosoge-makie-kyo-bako, Shichijo-shino-kesa shino-e, Dengyo-daishi-shorai-mokuroku, Katuma-kongo-mokuroku, Tendai-hokkeshu-nenbun-engi, Roku-so-eno-den, Dengyo-daishi-nitto-cho, Saga-tenno-shinkan-kojo-kaicho

World Heritage Registration: in 1994 (as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto)


For 1200 Years A Pillar of Buddhism in Japan: A Temple that has produced a Succession of Distinguished Priests  

On Mt. Hiei, overlooking the ancient capital of Kyoto in the west and Lake Biwa in the east, Enryaku-ji Temple occupies vast grounds that cover around 2,000 ha (about 5,000 acres).

The temple was founded in 788 by Saicho (767-822). After the capital was transferred in 794 to Heian-kyo, the site of present-day Kyoto, it became the guardian temple for the city.

For 1200 years since then, the temple has produced many distinguished priests. As a renowned center of learning and ascetic practice, Enryaku-ji Temple has an air of solemn religiosity. For example, monks still subject themselves to rigorous ascetic practices. Some monks shut themselves away in mountain huts for 12 years for the pursuit of learning and religious devotion. Other training involves walking from peak to peak in the mountains along steep paths, about 30 km or more per day, for a total of 1,000 days in a seven-year period: 100 days in both the first and second years, 200 days during each of the third, fourth and fifth years; and 100 days in both the sixth and seventh years.

During the middle of the 10th century, Enryaku-ji Temple had over 3,000 monks, and it had become a powerful force. In 1571, when the monks opposed the regime of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), he attacked the temple and burned it down. The current buildings date from the latter half of the 16th century to the first half of the 17th century, when the temple was reconstructed following a change of government.

Enryaku-ji Temple has great historical and artistic value. The grounds contain 10 National Treasures and over 50 Important Cultural Properties. Not only the temple itself in an excellent state of preservation, but its environment has great scenic charm. Consequently, in 1994, as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, Enryaku-ji Temple was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage.

Photos: The Konpon-chudo (Central Hall, Enryaku-ji Temple) (Shiga Prefecture)

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited.

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