Jogakuji (Buddhist temples with status similar to state-sponsored provincial temples) (定額寺)

Jogakuji refers to Buddhist temples with the second highest temple status following "kandaiji" (state-sponsored temples of great scale) and "kokubunji" (state-sponsored provincial temples), which existed in the Nara and Heian periods. As for the definition of jogakuji, however, there are many beliefs.


There are many theories as to what the prefix 'jogaku' means, and agreement has yet to be reached. Therefore, it is difficult to define jogakuji in a specific way.

Broadly speaking, there are the following five theories, all of which are refuted and fail to develop into a common belief.

The limited number of designated temples (a quota). This is a competent theory that dates back to ancient times because under the "ritsuryosei" (ancient East Asian system of centralized governance), the word 'jogaku' referred to a quota.

Criticisms, however, have been leveled at this theory on the basis that there are no historical documents that mention about specific numbers pertaining to a temple quota and that there are descriptions in histories that read a temple was newly designated as jogakuji in more recent years (if there was a quota, temples cannot be newly designated as jogakuji after reaching the quota).

Temples with a certain amount of supplies aid (a stipend)
The bottom line is that a stipend could be reliable national protection because it enables temples to establish a financial base.

Against this theory, some point out that there are no clear answers to whether the aid was given as "jiden"(rice fields owned by temples)(a harvest from jiden was given to temples) or as the direct provision of supplies.

Temples with a certain number of Buddhist priests stationed by the state ("jogakuso"(Buddhist priests under a quota system))
The bottom line is that this system can prevent temples from dilapidating due to a lack of Buddhist priests. It is also advantageous to the nation because the system enables the nation to instruct temples to convene national-level Buddhist services.

A refutation of this theory is that there are only a handful of temples that are proved to have embraced jogakuso.

Temples that were certified ('jo') "jigo" (literally, "temple name") and given the frame ('gaku') with a certificate showing jigo by the state

This theory has been rebutted in that there are few temples that are proved to have been awarded the frame with a certificate on the occasion of appointment as a jogakuji.

Temples that were authorized by the state to start services.
On this occasion, a jigo was awarded, and this award was called 'gaku.'

Some argue that if this theory was true, "kanji" (state-sponsored temples) other than kandaiji and kokubunji would be considered jogakuji without exception, and it would become impossible to think of jogakuji as special.


Due to a clear definition being lacking as mentioned above, it is difficult to grasp the picture of jogakuji. If we go on the assumption that jogakuji are associated with jigo, the origin of jogakuji can date back to the reign of EmperorTenmu, when a variety of temples were created jigo in 769. The 716 imperial decree of the consolidation of temples describes that "families that own and reside in temples (private temples) compete for a frame with a certificate."

The oldest record in which the word 'jogakuji' is found is "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), whereby the phrase "jogakuji: 100 cho (about 9,918 are) per temple" is written as to the limitations imposed on temples of the use of leased rice fields, which was stipulated on August 30, 749. The word 'jogakuji' can be found in various records such as "Rikkokushi" (the Six National Histories).

Those records reveal that many of jogakuji were formerly private temples set up by imperial families, peers, or powerful families. Particularly, after the Enryaku era, when a ban on private temples was fortified, the number of temples designated as jogakuji skyrocketed. It is considered that a move was made to avoid state control through a request for incorporation of private temples, targets of oppression, into state-sponsored temples (kanji). Also, it is not that the relationship between temples and "danotsu" (supporters of a Buddhist temple), who set up those private temples, was completely severed after the designation of temples as jogakuji.

Basically, once a temple was designated as jogakuji, the governor or arch-priest (the head Buddhist priest of kokubunji) of the province, where the temple was located, was responsible for the maintenance of the jogakuji through the provision of repairmen and maintenance allowances and for the appointment and arrangement of jogakuso and "nenbundo-sha" (approved people who enter the Buddhist priesthood), although there were differences among temples. On the other hand, jogakuji were responsible for the creation of materials (expenses) records and for the acceptance of administrative supervisions by a consortium of the governor, arch-monk, "sango" (three monastic positions with management roles at a temple), and danotsu. Furthermore, jogakuji and danotsu were strictly controlled; for example, the authority to appoint sango of temples was totally restricted.

As the ritsuryosei waned, however, regulations and laws that had controlled Buddhism such as "Soni ryo" (Regulations for Monks and Nuns) lost substance, and regulations on repairmen and maintenance subsidies also lost any meaning. As a result, a certain portion of jogakuji began to return their jogakuji status, despising its restrictive nature without advantages. On the other hand, there emerged cases in which temples promoted by emperors and equivalents were first set up as jogakuji to avoid violating a ban on the introduction of private temples, a law that continued to be in effect within the Imperial Court. Afterwards, this type of jogakuji became a prototype of "goganji" (a temple for Imperial Family). After the designation as jogakuji of Myoko-in temple at Enryaku-ji Temple, which was set up by Jinzen in 990, the jogakuji disappeared from history.

[Original Japanese]