Kozan-ji Temple (高山寺)

Kozan-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple situated in Toganoo-cho, Umegahata, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. Toganoo is located in the mountains to the northwest of the city of Kyoto. Kozan-ji Temple's sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is 'Toganoosan' and it originates from the Omuro school of the Shingon Sect. It is said to have been founded in the Nara period, but the actual Kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) was Kamakura period monk Myoe. In addition to 'Choju-Jinbutsu-Giga' (Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans), the temple is renowned for its numerous cultural properties including paintings, ancient writings and documents. The temple precinct has been designated both a national historic site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the {Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto}.

Origin and history

The Toganoo area in which Kozan-ji Temple is located is even deeper in the mountains than Takaosan Jingo-ji Temple - known for its red autumn leaves, has long been a place of mountain asceticism and is thought to have once been the site of many small temples. Since the Nara period, the current site of Kozan-ji Temple has been home to temples including 'Togao-ji' and 'Togao-bo,' and it is said that it was constructed in the year 774 by the imperial decree of Emperor Konin, but the accuracy of these claims remains unclear. In the Heian period, the temple became a branch temple of the nearby Jingo-ji Temple and became known as Jingo-ji Jumujinin Temple. It is then thought to have separated from a head temple, Jingo-ji Temple and served as a place of secluded asceticism.

The individual responsible for restoring Kozan-ji Temple and considered to be the official Kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) is Kamakura period Kegon Sect monk Myoe. Myoe-bo Koben (1173-1232) was born in the Arida District of Kii Province, which is equivalent to modern day Aridagawa-Cho in Wakayama Prefecture in 1173. His father was a warrior named TAIRA no Shigekuni and his mother was a daughter of the powerful Kii Province Yuasa family. After the death of his parents, Myoe left home aged 9 and entered the Buddhist priesthood under the guidance of his maternal uncle, the monk Jokaku (1147-1226) of Jingo-ji Temple.

Myoe was severely critical of Honen's exclusive nenbutsu practice and strived toward the revival of the Kegon Sect. In an 'age of decadence' in which Buddhism's standing was weakening, the teachings of 'exclusive nenbutsu' that people are not saved by the aspiration for Buddhahood and that, with the exception of nenbutsu, there is no other method of being reborn in paradise were in contradiction to the beliefs Myoe who emphasized discipline and the attainment of enlightenment.

In the year 1206 aged 34, Myoe was granted land at Toganoo by Emperor Gotoba who also conferred upon the temple the name 'Hi-idete-mazu-terasu-Kozan-no-tera' (First Mountain Temple Illuminated by the Rising Sun). This is considered to be the founding of the current Kozan-ji Temple. The temple's name was taken from a line in the 'Avatamsaka sutra' which states 'Hi, idete, mazu takaki yama wo terasu' which means 'When the sun rises, it first casts its light upon the highest mountain,' and is believed to have been chosen in the hope that the temple would be illuminated as described in the passage.

Since the medieval period, Kozan-ji Temple has been destroyed numerous times by conflict and fire and the only Kamakura period building to survive is Sekisui-in.


A surviving diagram of the Kozan-ji Temple precinct (Important Cultural Property, housed at Jingo-ji Temple) was created in 1230, over 20 years after its 1206 revival, and has been extremely valuable in verifying the layout of the temple at the time.
From the diagram, we know that Kozan-ji Temple originally consisted of a large outer gate, a main hall, a three-storied pagoda, an Amitabha hall, an Arhat hall, a bell tower, a scripture hall, and a Shinto shrine dedicated to the tutelary deity of the area, but all of these buildings have since been destroyed with he exception of the 'scripture hall,' which is now known as 'Sekisui-in.'
The stone walls lining both sides of the path that leads from Sekisui-in to Kaizan-do (it is also pronounced Kaisan-do) is reminiscent of the halls and sub-temples that once stood on the site.

Sekisui-in (National Treasure): Constructed in the Kamakura period. Topped by a hip-and-gable shingle roof. Said to have once been the place of study of Retired Emperor Gotoba and bestowed to the temple, but others claim it to be the remains of Myoe's dwelling. The exterior is in a residential style, but it appears to have been converted from a structure which originally served as a sutra hall. It was originally located atop the stone staircase that remains to the back right of the main hall, but was relocated to its current position in 1889.

Additionally, today's Kozan-ji Temple also contains a main hall that was relocated from Ninna-ji Temple and a Kaizan-do which houses a wooden statue of Myoe (Important Cultural Property), but both are modern reconstructions.

The grounds are also home to a tea garden said to be the oldest in Japan. The story claims that the varieties of tea were obtained by Rinzai Sect founder Eisai in Southern Song period China in the early Kamakura period and granted to Myoe following his return to Japan. It is also said that Myoe planted these on Mt. Toganoo from where they spread to other areas including Uji.

Cultural properties

The temple possesses numerous cultural properties, but the majority of them except buildings have been deposited at the national museums in Tokyo and Kyoto.

National treasures


Monochrome ink painting on paper 'Choju-Jinbutsu-Giga' (Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans): A set of four picture scrolls. They are all done in monochrome ink with no use of color. Unlike ordinary picture scrolls which include images and writing, they consist of pictures only. The first scroll depicts anthropomorphosized rabbits, frogs and monkeys and is the best known of the four scrolls. The second scroll illustrates sketches of animals, the third depicts caricatures of people engaging in a variety of competitions and games in the first half with animal caricatures in the second half, and the fourth consists of rough human caricatures. It is estimated that the first and second volumes were created during the late Heian period and the third and fourth volumes during the Kamakura period. There are numerous theories regarding the circumstances of their creation and themes, but the humorous animal caricatures of the first volume are particularly outstanding and considered to be the origin of modern Japanese Manga culture. Those on display at the temple are copies, as volumes 1 and 2 are currently deposited at Tokyo National Museum and volumes 3 and 4 are deposited at Kyoto National Museum.

Color painting on paper Kegon-shu Soshi Eden 7-kan (seven scrolls of pictorial biographies of the founders of the Kegon Sect): Created during the Kamakura period. Portrays the lives of Silla Kingdom Kegon Sect founders Uisang and Wonhyo. Consisted of 6 scrolls when designated a National Treasure, but rearranged into 7 scrolls after undergoing repairs.

Color on paper Myoe Shonin-zo (portrait of the monk Myoe): Also known as 'Jujo Zazen zo' (Zen Meditation in a Tree). In contrast to the standard image of a Buddhist monk, this picture depicts a tiny Myoe surrounded by a mountain landscape. It was created during the Kamakura period.

Color painting on silk Butsugen-Butsumo-zo (painting): Created in the early Kamakura period at the end of the 12th century. This image was personally owned by Myoe and contains his own writing.

Yupian Volume 27: A Tang Dynasty copy of a Chinese character dictionary 'Yupian' created during the Liang Dynasty. It is incredibly valuable as all copies of the text have long disappeared from China with this last remaining copy only surviving in Japan.

Tenrei Bansho Meigi: Valued as the only remaining copy of a Chinese character dictionary believed to have been compiled by Kukai. It was copied in 1114.

Ming Bao Ji: This copy of a Tang Dynasty collection of Buddhist tales is believed to have been transcribed in the late Tang Dynasty, 2 centuries after being first written. It is incredibly valuable as all copies have long disappeared from China with this being the oldest copy in existence.

Important Cultural Properties

Dry lacquered wooden seated statue of Bhaisajyaguru: Created towards the end of the Nara period. It was originally the center of a trio of Buddhist statues flanked by two attendants. The attendants were removed from the temple during the Meiji period, with the statue of Suryaprabha now at the Tokyo National Museum and the statue of Chandraprabha at the university museum of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Wooden seated statue of Monk Myoe: Housed within the Kaizan-do. Created during the Kamakura period.

A pair of wooden deer statues: Created during the Kamakura period. These unique statues of a buck and doe have been crafted to resemble the lion-dog statues that stand guard at the entrances to Shinto shrines. Deer are messengers of Kasuga-Myojin and it is believed that these statues were placed in front of the Kasuga Myojin shrine that once stood within Kozan-ji Temple.

Wooden standing statue of Byakkoshin: Created in the early Kamakura period. Byakkoshin is thought to be an Indian God that was enshrined within the Kozan-ji Temple shrine along with Zenmyoshin (Chinese God) and Kasuga-Myojin (Japanese God). As the name Byakkoshin (lit. White Light God) indicates, the statue is painted entirely in white from its clothing to the pedestal, which is said to represent the snow of the Himalayas.

Wooden standing statue of Zenmyoshin: Created in the early Kamakura period. Much of the vivid paint still remains. It is said to be the work of Buddhist sculptor Tankei along with the statue of Byakkoshin.

The Kozan-ji Temple Archive containing 9,293 items: Incorporates all documents including Buddhist texts and records which have been stored at Kozan-ji Temple from the Heian period to modern times.

17 volumes of Koben Yume-no-Ki: 'Koben' refers to Myoe. A record that Myoe kept of his dreams, the religious experiences of which are said to have greatly influenced his way of thinking. The surviving records span the period from 1196 (age 23) to 1223 (age 51).

The following is a complete list of Important Cultural Properties possessed by Kozan-ji Temple (including those described above).

Hokyoin-to pagoda
Nyohokyo-to pagoda (single-storey stone pagoda)

Color on silk Kegon-Kaie-Shoshoju-Mandala
Color on silk Kumano-Mandala
Color on silk Kumano-Mandala
Color on silk Fuku-Sanzo-zo
Color on silk Monju-Bosatsu-zo
Color on silk Bosatsu-zo (Jiden-Miroku-Bosatsu-zo)
Color on silk Myoe-Shonin-zo
Light-colored painting on paper FUJIWARA no Kanetsune-zo
Monochrome ink painting on paper Koso-zo
Monochrome ink painting on paper Shogun zuka-emaki
Monochrome ink painting on paper Daruma Sotatsu-Soshi-zo

Dry lacquered wooden seated statue of Bhaisajyaguru
1 pair of wooden Komainu
3 pairs of wooden Komainu
1 pair of wooden deer, 1 wooden horse, 1 wooden dog (Note: the 'horse' and 'dog' were additionally designated in 2001)
Wooden standing statue of Zenmyoshin
Wooden standing statue of Byakkoshin
Wooden seated statue of Myoe-shonin (placed in Kaizan-do)

Aji mother-of-pearl metal lacquer full-moon shape miniature shrine housing a statue of Maitreya
Black lacquer desk
Color painted wooden dharma wheel
Rinpo-Katsuma metal lacquer miniature reliquary shrine

Historical documents

Kegon sect-Ichijo-Kaishinron volume 2
Kegon-Komoku sho volumes 1-4
2 Gitenroku scrolls volume 1 and volumes 2/3
Kongo-Choyukakyo volumes 1-3
54 volumes of Ko-Kegonkyo (Kurourushi hakoiri)
Shaka-Gohyaku-Daigan-kyo parts 1 and 2
38 volumes of Teigen-Kegon-kyo
1 volume of Bonten-Karazu
Kegon-Shinshugi written by monk Myoe
Daito-Tenjiku-Riteisho written by monk Myoe
Nyukai-Datsumongi parts 1 and 2 written by monk Myoe

Daihokodarani-kyo-yobunshu written by monk Myoe
Mirokujosho-kyo written by ISHIKAWA no Toshitari
Shiki (the Chinese Historical Records) volumes 3 and 4
Lunyu (Analects of Confucius) volumes 4 and 8
Lunyu (Analects of Confucius) volumes 7 and 8
7 volumes of Zhuang-zi
Sokan-bon Seimin-yojutsu volumes 5 and 8
Soban-Kegonzanmai-sho by Hojo
4 volumes of Soban-Konkomyomonku-Gokokuki by Nyotan
4 volumes of Soban-Kongoki gai-bekkai by Shoan Kanpuku
Soban-Hozo-wajo-den by Chiwon CHOE
Koben Yume no Ki in 1 scroll, 9 sheets, 2 bindings, 2 books and 3 panels
Kozan-ji Temple Archive consisting of 9,290 items
2 Shinbi-Issai-Kyozo-Ryoko-zu

[Original Japanese]