Enchin (延鎮)

Enchin (814 to December 4, 891) was a monk of Tendai Sect in the Heian period. He was the sect founder of Tendai Jimonshu. His posthumous title was Chisho Daishi. He was one of the eight priests who went to China (Saicho, Kukai, Jogyo, Engyo, Ennin, Eun, Enchin, and Shuei).


He was born in Kanakura-go of Sanuki Province (Kagawa Prefecture) in 814.
He was a member of a local ruling family, Saeki family of Hirota-go, Tadono-gori
He was a child of a niece of Kukai (Kobo Daishi). His birth place is about 4 km away from Zentsu-ji Temple. He studied Buddhist scripture from an early age, and went to Mt. Hiei at the age of 15 (all ages given in this article are according to the traditional Japanese system) to study under Gishin. He took the tonsure at the age of 20, confined himself in the mountain for 12 years and became gakuto (head student). He went to Tang on a Silla merchant ship in 853 and returned to Japan on a Tang merchant ship in 858. He lived in Konzo-ji Temple, the 76th temple of Shikoku's eighty-eight sacred places for a while to maintain the temple after returning to the country. He lived in Sanno-in Temple on Mt. Hiei, then in 868, he became the fifth head priest of Enryaku-ji Temple, and received Onjo-ji Temple (Mii-dera Temple) for Dojo training hall for denpokanjo (consecration for the Transmission of the Dharma). Since Mt. Hiei was occupied by the Sanmon school, Onjo-ji Temple became a base for the Sanmon school. The two copies of complete Buddhist scriptures that Enchin brought back from Tang to Japan were stored in Onjo-ji Temple and Jisso-ji Temple. He died at the age of 78 in 891. Arts, such as 'Kifudo painting' and 'Shinra Myojin zo', which inspired Enchin, and a lot of documents written by him remain in Mii-dera Temple, and they are regarded as important materials in the Japanese art history.

He wrote over 90 documents and the documents containing Enchin's teachings and a journal of his travel to the Tang are very famous. There are three volumes of "Chisho Daishi zenshu" (The Complete Writings of Chisho Daishi).


Enchin was worshiped as the founder of a religious sect in Onjo-ji Temple and the temple has plenty of statues of Enchin, including a statue designated as a national treasure. In Toin Daishi Do of the temple, there are two statues of Chisho Daishi named as 'Chuson Daishi' (the Great teacher of the principal statue of in a group of Buddhist statues) and 'Okotsu Daishi' (the statue of Great Teacher with its remains in it) which are designated as national treasures. Both statues have characteristic appearances: the tops of the heads are pointed and the heads have an oval outline.

Documents by Enchin

His distinctive style of calligraphy produced Japanese characters that were said to resemble 'withered branches'. There are about 20 existing shinseki (original handwritings) of Enchin and typical ones are as follows.

Enchin's letters (yorihenjo) (National treasure)
One of the national treasures 'Documents associated with Enchin' in Tokyo National Museum. It was a reply to Sojo Henjo, a poet in Kokin Wakashu (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry), and it was dated May 27 with the year unknown, but it is estimated to be a letter in his later years. It seems to be poor, but it is tasteful and excellent handwriting.

Denpoukugenoko sojoan (National treasure)
One of the national treasures 'Documents associated with Chisho Daishi' in Onjo-ji Temple. It was a draft of a document submitted to the imperial court to apply for certification for teachings of Buddhism after he came back to Japan from Tang. It was dated November 13, 863. His style of handwriting was a characteristic cursive-styled kaisho (block script).

[Original Japanese]