Seiryo-ji Temple (清凉寺)

Seiryo-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Pure Land sect located in Sagano, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture.
Its honorific mountain prefix is 'Godaisan.'
It is known as Saga Shaka-do and, from the middle ages, has also been referred to as the 'Place of Yuzu-Nembutsu Enlightenment.'
Initially, the temple belonged to the Kegon sect before becoming a Pure Land sect temple. The temple's object of devotion is Shaka Nyorai and was founded by kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) Chonen, with his student Josan serving as kaisan (founding priest).

Origin and History

Seika-ji Temple
Both Seika-ji Temple, devoted to Amida sanzon, and Seiryo-ji Temple, devoted to Shaka Nyorai, are connected to the history of this temple. This site was originally the location of a villa named Seikakan belonging to Imperial Prince and Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) MINAMOTO no Toru (822-895), son of Emperor Saga. In the year 896, on the first anniversary of the death of MINAMOTO no Toru, his son fulfilled the unachieved ambition of his father by creating a statue of Amida sanzon and installing it in the Amida hall that he named Seika-ji Temple. In the year 945, the wife of Imperial Prince Shigeakira founded a new hall and installed within a life-sized statue of Shaka Nyorai. One theory claims this to be the origin of the name 'Shaka-do' (Shaka Hall).

Seiryo-ji Temple
Several decades after the founding of Seika-ji Temple, there lived a monk from Todai-ji Temple named Chonen (938-1016) who travelled to Northern Song Period China on a pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai (also known as Mt. Qingliang). In the year 985, while in Song China, Chonen appointed Buddhist artisans of Kaiyuansi Temple in Taizhou to carve of a statue of Shaka Nyorai. This Shaka Nyorai statue is said to be a copy of an actual likeness made from chinaberry commissioned by the Indian King Udayana during Shaka's lifetime and have the history that two statues changed places, for this reason, is also called the 'three nation Shaka statue' due its transmission from India to China and then to Japan. After returning to Japan in the year 987, Chonen likened Kyoto's Mt. Atago-yama to Mt. Wutai in China and attempted to establish a temple at its base in which to install the Shaka statue. It is believed that Chonen chose to install the three nation Shaka statue at this Saga site as the center of the southern capital of Buddhism. It is thought that intended to establish Seiryo-ji Temple at the base of Mt. Atago-yama in the northwest of the capital in order to counteract the corresponding Enryaku-ji Temple situated at Mt. Hieizan in the northeast. However, Chonen's ambition was not realized and he passed away in 1016. On receiving his master's dying wish, Chonen's disciple Josan went on to found Godaisan Seiryo-ji Temple.

Dai-Nembutsu (Yuzu-Nembutsu)
The temple's link to Yuzu-Nembutsu came about after 1279. In this year, Enkaku, an enlightened monk named Dai-Nembutsu Chuko Shonin practiced Yuzu-Nembutsu at the temple. Dai-Nembutsu went on to flourish on the site and it became known as a place of Yuzu-Nembutsu enlightenment. Dai-Nembutsu plays are thought to have been first performed at the temple in 1443. The temple's monastery was destroyed by fire during the Onin War but was rebuilt in 1481.

In 1530, it became a Pure Land sect temple after Enyo entered the temple and conducted the first noon prayers to Amitaba. The Shaka-do (hondo) was donated by Hideyori TOYOTOMI in 1602 but a great fire spread throughout Saga, causing damage to the monastery below, which was compounded by damage inflicted by a large earthquake. In 1700, the statue of the principal deity began to be taken out and displayed, starting in Edo and at various locations in what is known as dekaicho. In addition, restoration of the monastery was carried out in accordance with the wish of Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA's mother Keishoin.

These events resulted in the three nation Shaka statue becoming increasingly revered and Seiryo-ji Temple being referred to as 'Saga Shaka-do.'
On the other hand, the original Seika-ji Temple gradually fell into decline and the surviving Amida Hall and Amida sanzon statue (National Treasure now installed in Reihokan) are its last remaining traces.

Entering the main Nio-mon gate with a frame of 'Wutaishan' hanging; straight ahead is the main hall (Shaka Hall) housing the statue of Shaka Nyorai and to the east of the main hall is Amida Hall that once housed the former Seika-ji Temple principal image Amida Sanzon (now within in Reihokan), which, contrary to custom, is situated so that the statue would have been facing westward. To the west of the main hall is the south-facing Yakushi-ji Temple. The current main hall was rebuilt in 1701 and the Amida Hall was rebuilt in 1863.

On the western side of the sando (entrance path) leading from the Nio-mon gate to the main hall are various buildings including the Tahoto tower based on the Lotus Sutra, the Shotoku-taishi-den recreating the Horyu-ji Temple Yumedono and Kyogen-do. Kyogen-do becomes busy during the spring Dai-Nembutsu season. On the eastern side of the sando is the Issai Kyozo (Rinzo) with statue of Fu Dashi and his son installed on the front.

As well as those buildings given above, the precinct also includes the Reihokan which houses and exhibits precious artifacts such as a statue of a young Honen Shonin seeking enlightenment and a burial mound containing the head of Hideyori TOYOTOMI.

Cultural Properties

National Treasures

Wooden standing image of Shaka and objects contained within - This is the 'three nation Shaka statue' referred to in the 'Origin and History' article. It is 160 cm tall and said to be made from the wood of the Prunus Wilsoni Koehne tree not found in Japan. The knots in the hair and concentric rings on the robes make it immediately obvious that the style is different from that of traditional Japanese Buddhist statues. In 985, while Chonen was in Song China, he commissioned the piece at Kaiyuansi Temple in Taizhou and it is known from the inscriptions and writings on the objects inside that the names of its makers are Yanjiao ZHANG and Yanxi ZHANG.
Nearly 100 imitations of this statue are known to exist around Japan including at Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City, Nara Prefecture) and are referred to as 'Seiryo-ji Temple-style Shaka statues.'
In addition, numerous pieces including documents relating to the statue's creation, items left by Chonen and Buddhist block prints were discovered within the abdomen of the statue and these have all been designated National Treasures along with the statue itself. Among these objects, 'five solid organs and six hollow organs' (a model of the internal organs made of silk), have gained a lot of attention as a valuable resource for the study of medical history. Items left by Chonen include a birthday document (birth details) and documents with hand-prints.

Wooden sitting statue of Amida sanzon - The object of veneration of Seika-ji Temple referred to in the 'Origin and History' article. Believed to have been completed in 896 on the first anniversary of the death of MINAMOTO no Toru.

16 color on silk portraits of the 16 arhats - The only existing arhat image from Northern Song Period China. Eight have been deposited at Tokyo National Museum and eight at Kyoto National Museum.

Important Cultural Properties

6 volume color on paper Shaka-do doctrine of pratitya-samutpada (attributed to Motonobu KANO)
2 volume color on paper Yuzu-Nembutsu doctrine of pratitya-samutpada
Wooden statue of the bodhisattva Manjusri riding a lion
Wooden statue of Sakra (has been told samantabhadra) riding a elephant
Wooden standing statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha
Wooden standing statue of Vaisravana
Wooden standing statue of the Four Heavenly Kings
Wooden standing statue of ten great disciples
2 letters written by Genku and Shouku (including 1 oath written by Naozane KUMAGAI, 2 Kosho Mandala, and 1 Kosho Mandala Yurai)

Saga Dai-Nembutsu (Dai-nembutsu Kyogen)


Location: 46 Fujinoki-cho Sagashakado, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City
Transport: Take the Kyoto City Bus or Kyoto Bus to Sagashakado-mae and walk for 2 minutes.

[Original Japanese]