Hidenin Temple (悲田院)

Based on the spirit of mercy of Buddhism, Hidenin Temple was built for the salvation of the poor and orphans.


Legend has it that Prince Shotoku first built it in Shitennoji in Osaka as one of the Shikain (four institutions) following the example of the Sui Dynasty in ancient China, and that it is related to the origin of Respect-for-Senior-Citizens Day; Shikain is together the combination of Hidenin, Keidenin (for religion, music), Seyakuin (free pharmacy), and Ryobyoin (free hospital). In China, similar facilities built in the Tang period are often referred to as being at the root of social welfare just like in Japan (they were no doubt the earliest facilities for the needy). In Japan, when she was Princess, Empress Komyo built the oldest Hidenin facility in 723 in Japanese record. In the Heian period, an additional two facilities were built to the east and west of Heian-kyo, and they later became annexes of Seyaku-in Temple which had been built by Empress Komyo, and was under its control.

In the Nara period, Hidenin was also constructed in Kofuku-ji Temple by Jianzhen. In the Kamakura period, Ninsho opened them at various places in the country. Later in medieval times, people at the bottom of society used them.

Today, the tacchu (a tiny temple) within Sennyu-ji Temple in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City is one that remains, and also some of them remain as place-names such as Hidenin-cho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, where Shitenno-ji Temple is, as mentioned earlier (in the neighborhood of Tennoji Station owned by West Japan Railway and Osaka Municipal Subway).

[Original Japanese]