Chikurin-ji Temple (Ikoma City) (竹林寺 (生駒市))

Chikurin-ji Temple is a Risshu sect temple located in Arisato Town, Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture. It is known as the location of the tomb of the famous monk Gyoki from the Nara Period. Its sango (literally "mountain name," a title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple) is Mount Ikoma-yama. Its principle image is a statue of Monju Bosatsu riding a lion.


Chikurin-ji Temple is located at the eastern foot of Mount Ikoma-yama. The temple contains the tomb of the monk Gyoki who dedicated himself to work beneficial to the community such as building bridges and flood controls, and even had a part in the construction of the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple in the Nara Period. It is thought that the small hermitage that Gyoki managed in his later years was later recognized as a temple. It is believed that Gyoki was an incarnation of Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri), and the jigo (literally "temple name," which is the title given to a Buddhist temple) comes from Dasheng Zhilin-si (the Chinese pronunciation for Holy Chikurin-ji Temple) on Wutai-shan Mountain in China, which is considered Monju Bosatsu's holy land. It was as good as abandoned after the Meiji Period and managed for a time by the head temple, Toshodai-ji Temple, but work on the property restarted at the end of the twentieth century.

There is a record in "Gyoki's Chronicles" (completed in 1175), one of the basic resources for the study of Gyoki, that suggests Gyoki moved to Ikuma Sembo (resident priests' quarters) in 707, aged forty. However, in the "Abridged Records of Chikurin-ji Temple" (completed in 1305) written by a scholar monk of Todai-ji Temple called Gyonen, it is mentioned that Gyoki entered Ikoma-yama in 704 and lived at Kayano Sembo. There is no proof that 'Ikuma Sembo' and 'Kayano Sembo' are one and the same, or if either are the current Chikurin-ji Temple, but considering the fact that Gyogi's tomb is located here, it is thought that it is likely that Chikurin-ji Temple is a reincarnation of 'Ikuma Sembo'.

The section on November 20, 773 in the official history record "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicles of Japan Continued) says 'of the forty or more temples at which Gyoki trained, six are dilapidated, so each will be given two to three square kilometers of land', and 'Ikuma-in Temple' is included as one of the six. From this article it can be gathered that 'Ikuma-in Temple' was already in disrepair a little over twenty years after Gyoki's death.

According to the "Chikurin-ji Temple History" penned by a monk named Jakumetsu about five centuries later in 1235, in that same year he and his peers followed the orders Gyoki gave him in a dream and dug up his grave at Mount Ikoma-yama, and discovered articles such as a urn and an epitaph. The details of the inscription on the epitaph can be found in Toshodai-ji Temple documents, and according to them, after Gyoki died at Sugawara-dera Temple (now Kiko-ji Temple in Nara City) he was cremated at 'the eastern foot of Mount Ikuma-yama'. Gyoki's urn and epitaph were reburied, but a very small piece of the bronze epitaph was excavated at the end of the Edo Period and became the personal property of a local person. This was certified as an Important Art on November 11, 1933 under the name 'The Remnants of the Bronze Cinerary Urn of Gyoki', and is now stored at Nara National Museum.

Later the temple was rejuvenated by Eison, who played an important role in the restoration of Saidai-ji Temple, and his disciple Ninsho among others, but closed at the time of the anti-Buddhist movement in the Meiji Period. It was restored again in 1997.

Cultural Properties

Artifacts from the tomb of Ninsho at Chikurin-ji Temple are Important Cultural Properties. They contain some of the remains of the monk Ninsho who founded Gokuraku-ji Temple (in Kamakura City) and dedicated himself to the revival of religious precepts and work benefitting the community in the Kamakura Period, and which were, according to his will, buried at Gokuraku-ji Temple, Kakuan-ji Temple (in Yamato-Koriyama City, Nara Prefecture) and Chikurin-ji Temple. The artifacts also include a bronze cinerary urn and stone funerary urn and other items discovered in the excavation and research which took place in 1986. They are currently stored at Toshodai-ji Temple.

The wooden statues of Monju Bosatsu riding a lion and his attendants, are the principle images of Chikurin-ji Temple. Only the statue of the lion is from the Muromachi Period, the rest are from modern times.

The Tomb of Gyoki is a Historic Site. It is said that Gyoki died in the year 749 at the age of 82 at Sugawara-dera Temple (now Kiko-ji Temple) in Heijokyo, and according to his will he was cremated at the eastern foot of Ikoma-yama Mountain and buried at Chikurin-ji Temple.

The incomplete remains of Ninsho's tomb tower, a gorinto, contains what is thought to be the tomb of Eison's disciple Ninsho, and a urn designated as an Important Cultural Property was discovered during the excavation research project by the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture.

The wooden image of a sitting Gyoki Bosatsu, an Important Cultural Property, was stored at Chikurin-ji in the past, but moved to Toshodai-ji Temple when Chikurin-ji Temple was closed during the time of the anti-Buddhist movement in the Meiji Period.


Walk from Ichibun Station or Minami-Ikoma Station on the Kintetsu Ikoma Line.

[Original Japanese]