Ansho-ji Temple (Kyoto City) (安祥寺 (京都市))

Ansho-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Koyasan Shingon Sect located in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City. The temple's sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Kisshozan, its principal image is the Eleven-faced Kannon and it was founded by Keiun. It was one of the Jogaku-ji (government-subsidized temples) with a relationship to the Imperial Court.

Ansho-ji Temple was founded by a nyuto-priest (priest wet to China for studying), Keiun, in the year 848 following a vow made by FUJIWARA no Nobuko, the concubine of the Emperor Ninmei and the mother of Emperor Buntoku. Due to its connection to the mother of the emperor, the temple was made a Jogaku-ji (government-subsidized temple) in the year 855.

According to "Engishiki" (laws and regulations of the Engi era), the tomb of Nobuko is in Yamashina and is thought to have a deep connection to the temple.

As is the case for Daigo-ji Temple, Ansho-ji Temple had both a 'Kami-dera' (upper temple) on the mountain to its rear and a 'Shimo-dera' (lower temple) at the foot of the mountain. The precise time at which these two temples were established is not known. The most likely theory is that 'Kami-dera' first existed as a place of ascetic practice for monks, following which the Shimo-dera was founded by FUJIWARA no Nobuko who had become devoted to Keiun.

According to "Ansho-ji Garan Engi Shizai-cho" (records of materials used in the construction of Ansho-ji Temple) (currently in the possession of To-ji Temple) written by Keiun in the year 867, the Kami-dera included a main hall consisting of a Reibutsu-do (prayer hall) and a Godai-do (hall dedicated to the five guardian kings), eastern and western monks' living quarters, a kuri (food preparation building) and a bathing hall while the Shimo-dera was a site of approximately 20,000 square meters including a pagoda, a Buddha statue hall, monks' living quarters and a gate tower.

However, the temple gradually went into decline after losing the patronage of the Imperial Court following the death of Nobuko, "Shoyu-ki" (the diary of FUJIWARA no Sanesuke) describes how that the path leading to Kami-dera became extremely overgrown. In the latter part of the Heian period, a monk named Soi attempted to restore Shimo-dera. Following this, Kami-dera barely managed to continue until the Enbun era (1356-1360) but both Kami-dera and Shimo-dera, as with many other temples in Kyoto, were completely abandoned due to the Onin War.

In the Edo period, the temple was reconstructed on its current site based on the remaining artifacts but Kami-dera was not rebuilt and disappeared. At this time it was under the joint administration of Koyasan Hosho-in Temple. In addition, the size of the temple precinct was greatly reduced when the majority of the temple estate was sold to the Monzeki (priest prince) of Bishamon-do Temple in order to pay for maintenance. The temple was damaged by fire on numerous occasions throughout the Edo period and the two-storey pagoda was not rebuilt after being completely destroyed by fire in 1906.

All that remains now is the main hall, Jizo-do (hall dedicated to Jizo) and Daishi-do (hall dedicated to Kukai) that were all rebuilt during the latter part of the Edo period.

Cultural properties
Wooden seated statues of the Five Wisdom Buddhas (Important Cultural Property): Deposited at Kyoto National Museum. The Five Buddhas of Vajradhatu (Diamond Realm) are centered around Dainichi Nyorai and estimated to have been crafted at the time of Ansho-ji Temple's founding. They were once housed within the two-storey pagoda that was destroyed by fire in 1906 but avoided damage as they had previously been deposited at Kyoto National Museum.

Statue of the Eleven-faced Kannon: Enshrined in the main hall
Statue of the Four Heavenly Kings: Enshrined in the main hall
Statue of Jizo Bosatsu: Enshrined in Jizo-do
Coiled dragon stone pillar: Chinese Tang Dynasty. Deposited at Kyoto National Museum.

The statues of the Five Great Akasagarbha at Kanchi-in Temple in To-ji Temple (Chinese Tang Dynasty, Important Cultural Properties) were brought to Japan from Tang Dynasty China by Keiun and were originally kept at Ansho-ji Temple.

22 Goryo Hirabayashi-Cho, Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City

10 minutes walk from JR West/Keihan Electric Railways Yamashina Station. However the temple is not open to the public and the grounds cannot be entered. The temple also faces the Lake Biwa Canal and the area is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms.

[Original Japanese]