The Taima-dera Temple (當麻寺)

Sango (literally, "mountain name," which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple): Mt.Nijo
Religious school: Koyasan Shingon sect, the Jodo sect
Honzon (principal image of Buddha): Taima Mandala
The year of foundation: it is said to be in 612
Kaiki (patron of a temple in its foundation): it is said to be Prince Maroko
The official name:
Another name:
Fudasho (temples where amulets are collected) etc: the eleventh of the new thirty-three temples that are visited during the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage, the twenty-first of the twenty-five Sacred Sites of floral temples in Kansai area (Seinanin Temple), the eighth of the eighteen Historical Temples with Pagodas (Holy Places of Butto-koji) (Seinanin Temple), the sixth of the Yamato thirteen sacred places (Nakanobo Hall), a tour of Yamato seven fortunes and eight treasures (Nakanobo Hall), the ninth of Honen Shonin Nijugo Reiseki (twenty-five places where relate to Honen Shonin) (Okunoin) and the thirty-second of Shinbutsu Reijo Junpai no Michi (the road for pilgrimage to the sacred places of Gods or Buddha)
Cultural properties: the east pagoda, the west pagoda, Mandala Hall, Sozo Miroku-butsu zazo (the earthen image of seated statue of Miroku Buddha) and so on (national treasures), Kon-do Hall (main hall of a Buddhist temple), Kanshitsu Shitenno ryuzo (standing dry lacquer statues of Four Devas), the wooden seated statue of Amida Nyoai and so on (important cultural properties)

The Taima-dera Temple is a temple founded during the Asuka period and located in Katsuragi City, Nara Prefecture. Its hogo (a Buddhist name) is 'the Zenrin-ji Temple' (禅林寺).
Its sango is 'Mt. Nijo.'
Honzon at the time of its foundation was Miroku-butsu (Miroku Buddha) (Kon-do Hall), but Taima Mandala (Hondo [main hall]) is mainly worshipped at present. The religious school is both the Koyasan Shingon sect and the Jodo sect. Kaiki (the founder) is said to be Prince Maroko, a half younger brother of the Prince Shotoku, but there are many questions about its first stage.

It is an old temple known by the faith for 'the Taima Mandala' which shows Saiho Gokuraku Jodo (The West Pure Land [of Amida Buddha]) and a legend of Chujo Hime (Princess Chujo) who was related to Mandala. Many people visit Nerikuyo eshiki (memorial marching ceremony for the dead) which is held on May 14 every year, and this event is also related with the Taima Mandala and Chujo Hime. There are two three-storied pagodas (the east pagoda and the west pagoda) which were built from the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period. It is also known as the sole temple which has both east and west pagodas built before recent times.


The Taima-dera Temple, famous for the legend of Hasuito Mandala (the Taima Mandala) of Chujo Hime, is located on the foot of the Mt.Nijo (or Mt.Futakami) (in Nara prefecture and Osaka prefecture). The Taima district, Katsuragi City, Nara Prefecture (former Taima Town, Kita-katsuragi County) where the Taima-dera Temple is located, is the west end of the Nara Basin and has a border with the Osaka Prefecture. Mt.Nijo in this place has two tops (named Odake [literally, 'male top'] and Medake [literally, 'female top']) as its name shows and faces Mt.Miwa (Sakurai City) which is Shintaizan (a mountain where the spirit of deity is traditionally believed to dwell) in the east of the Nara Basin. Mt.Nijo was a special mountain which was regarded as an entrance of Saiho Gokuraku Jodo and the destination of dead souls because it was located in the west of the Yamato Province and the sun set in the middle of the two tops.

The Takenouchi Street in the south of Mt. Nijo was a major traffic route between the Kawachi Province and the Yamato Province. In ancient times, it was a route by which foreign goods of the Chinese continent and Korean peninsula from the port of Naniwa (Osaka) to the capital. Eshin Sozu, who was a priest of the Jodo-kyo in the Heian period and the writer of "Ojoyoshu" (The Essentials of Salvation), was born in this district. In addition, Taima district is known as a set of a fantasy fiction, "Book of the Dead," written by Nobuo ORIGUCHI (Choku SHAKU).

It is commonly said that Taima was named because mountain roads are 'tagitagishii' (hard). However, judging from the family trees of the maternal ancestor of the Empress Jingu (descendant of Amenohiboko), the Owari clan and the Amabe clan, it can be guessed that it had have a deep relationship with Tajima Province and Taima or Katsuragi.

The Taima-dera Temple was built as a family temple of the 'Taima clan,' Gozoku (local ruling family) who had power in this place. There are ruins that go back to the early part of the Nara period - the latter part of the seventh century) such as Buddha statue, bonsho (large temple bell) and stone lantern, so that the foundation of the temple can be guessed around this time. However, the accurate period and situation at the time of the foundation are not seen in official history and are not so clear.

The history of its foundation can be seen in various books and documents written in the Kamakura period when the faith for Taima Mandala began to, at last, spread. The early example is a book "Kenkyugojunreiki" (a record of pilgrimage during the Kenkyu era) which was written in the end of the twelfth century (in 1191). This was a record of when Jitsuei (実叡), a priest of the Kofuku-ji Temple, made a pilgrimage to famous temples and shrines in Yamato Province.

According to that book, the Taima-dera Temple was founded by the Prince Maroko, a half younger brother of the Prince Shotoku, as 'the Zenrin-ji Temple' which honzon was Miroku-butsu, and his grandson Taima no Mahito Kunimi moved it to the present place which was related with EN no Ozunu (A semi-legendary holy man noted for his practice of mountain asceticism during the second half of the seventh century) in 681.

On the other hand, according to "Taima-dera Temple Engi" (The History of Taima-dera Temple) in "Jogu-taishi Shui-ki" (a collection of the stories about Prince Shotoku) (1237), the Taima-dera Temple was founded by the Prince Maroko as the Manhozo-in Temple which honzon was Kuze Kannon in 612 and it was originally located in the place named Misoji (味曽路) in the south of present Taima-dera Temple and moved to the present place in 692. In addition, in other historical material, the former place of the Manhozo-in Temple is described as Yamada-go in the Kawachi Province (around the Katano City, Osaka Prefecture).

At the end of the Heian period, in accordance with the spread of Mappo-shiso (the "end of the world" belief), a faith in the rebirth at Saiho Gokuraku Jodo of Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) after life and Amida-do Hall (temple hall having an enshrined image of Amitabha) was actively built. Since around this time, the Taima-dera Temple had been worshipped as the temple of 'Taima Mandala' that drew the Pure Land of Amida Nyorai. Especially, Shoku, the founder of the Nishiyama school of the Jodo sect, wrote "the Commentary on Taima Mandala" in 1223, made more than a dozen copies of Taima Mandala and enshrined them in various countries, which contributed the spread of Taima Mandala.

Taima Mandala and the legend of Chujo Hime

The Taima-dera Temple founded as a family temple of the Taima clan had been known as a temple of the legend of Chujo Hime and Taima Mandala from the middle ages. Taima Mandala' is called 'Amida Jodo henso zu' in academic parlance (the word 'henso' means visualization of Pure Land as pictures and sculptures). It drew the situation of Saiho Gokuraku Jodo where Amida Nyorai lived and was regarded as being made based on "Kangyo shijosho," a commentary on "Kanmuryojyukyo" written by Zendo, a high priest in Tang.
Moreover, as to the contents of Taima Mandala, refer to another section; 'Taima Mandala.'

There is a legend that the original Taima Mandala was woven by a woman named Chujo Hime with using lotus threads in one night. Chujo Hime is regarded as a daughter of FUJIWARA no Toyonari, but there are some women who are assumed to be her model.

The existing Zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors in which an image of (the) Buddha, a sutra, or some other revered object is kept at a temple) for Mandala at Hondo of the Taima-dera Temple (Mandala Hall) was made from the end of the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period. For this reason, it is guessed that the original of Taima Mandala was enshrined during this period at the latest. However, there are no materials on the transmission and the origin of Mandala among the records from the Heian period, and the 'history' of Mandala was formed during the Kamakura period. According to the above "Kenkyugojunreiki," Taima Mandala was woven by kenin (it might be an avatar of Kannon Bosatsu [Kannon Buddhisattva]) because of a wish of a daughter of Yokohagi Dainagon (Major Counselor) one night in 763. At this time at the end of the twelfth century, the name of 'Chujo Hime' had not been seen. According to "Kokon chomon ju" (A collection of Tales Heard, Past and Present) in the middle of the thirteenth century, Yokohagi Dainagon was described as FUJIWARA no Toyonari and after that, the father's name had been established as Udaijin (minister of the right) FUJIWARA no Toyonari and the daughter's name had been as Chujo Hime.
The legend of Chujo-Hime had been adopted by Noh (traditional masked dance-drama), Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment) and Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) with variously embroidered from medieval times to recent times, and gradually modified into a story of 'stepchild abuse.'
A summary of the plot is as follows.

Long long time ago, FUJIWARA no Toyonari, a descendant of FUJIWARA no Kamatari, had a beautiful princess. This beautiful and clever princess who was later called Chujo Hime lost her real mother in her childhood and was fostered by a wicked stepmother. Chujo Hime had been continuously abused by this stepmother and nearly killed because of an innocent sin at last.
However, a follower of the family of FUJIWANO no Toyonari who was ordered to kill her and saw her devote herself in sutra chanting with wishing for gokuraku ojo (peaceful death), could not kill her with a sword and left her at 'Mt.Hibari.'
After that, Chujo Hime met her father Toyonari who had changed his mind and returned to the capital once, but soon she became a priestess in Taima-dera Temple and devoted herself in wishing for gokuraku ojo. The famous 'Taima Mandala' was woven by her with five-colored lotus threads in one night. When she put the threads which were taken from lotus stem in a well, they were quickly stained five colors. It is the well named 'Somenoi' which remains in the Shakko-ji Temple near the Taima-dera Temple. When she was twenty-nine years old, living Amida Buddha and twenty-five Bosatsu appeared and she left for Saiho Gokuraku Jodo.

It seems that this story was so popular it has been embroidered by Zeami and Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU and adopted as the subject of Yokyoku (Noh song), Joruri and Kabuki.

The original of Taima Mandala (Konpon [fundamental] Mandala) has been secretly stored at Taima-dera Temple although it was greatly damaged. It is not a picture, but a big fabric of about four meters wide and long. However, as a result of research, it is clear that it is not a fabric woven with lotus threads like the legend says, but a figured brocade with silk threads. It is said to have been made during the Nara or Tang period in China, but it is more influential too see that it was made in China. It seems that Mandala was originally hung on Zushi, but it was renovated to be pasted on a board in the medieval times when it was hardly damaged. During the Edo period, it was unglued from the board and redecorated as a hanging scroll again. Shogu, a priest of the Daiun-in Temple in Kyoto, recorded the repair of the Mandala in 1677 during the Edo period. According to that record, when Japanese paper was pasted on the surface in order to unglue Mandala from the board and water was poured, Mandala was taken off with a big sound. The desquamated remaining pieces of the fabric were pasted on another silk cloth that had been prepared, and the part in which patterns disappeared from the deterioration of the fabric were painted. This is the existing Mandala, a national treasure, and it is greatly deteriorated, damaged and discolored as a whole. It is said that about one third of the original figured brocade remains. Especially, the lower part of the picture is totally lost and filled with a picture, but the original fabric remains in comparatively good condition in some parts such as right kyoji (attendant figures) (on the observers' left) of Amida Sanzon (Amida Triad). In addition, the trace of the Mandala on the surface of the board when the Mandala on the board was unglued was called 'Uraita Mandala' and is enshrined on the back of Mandala Zushi.

The original Taima Mandala seemed to be hardly damaged during the Kamakura period, more than four centuries after production, and the first transcription 'Kenpo Mandala' was produced in 1215. This first transcription was said to have been enshrined at the Rengeo-in Temple (Sanjusangen-do Hall) in Kyoto and retuned to the Taima-dera Temple later, but it does not exist now. The patterns of the second transcription 'Bunki Mandala' was completed in 1502 and its memorial service was held in 1505, and the third transcription, Jokyo Mandala, was completed in 1685, any of which was not a fabric but a picture. The one hung on Zushi at Hondo of the Taima-dera Temple (Mandala Hall) at present is Bunki Mandala (an important cultural property).

Temple buildings

In the present Taima-dera Temple, south-facing Kon-do Hall and Kodo Hall (lecture hall) and east-facing Hondo stand board and board. South of these stand two three-storied pagodas of east and west. Between the Kon-do Hall and the east and west pagodas, branch temples such as Nakanobo Hall and Gonen-in Temple had been built, so that it is difficult to imagine the location at the time of foundation. As well as many other temples in ancient times, the front entrance seemed to be south-facing when it was founded, but the entrance of the Taima-dera Temple today is the Todaimon Gate (東大門). There is no gate in the south and it is difficult to know the original location of temple buildings and the flow line of praying. It seems that the Taima-dera Temple when first adopted such a formation of temple buildings similar to the Yakushi-ji Temple style in which Kon-do Hall was placed in the center, the Kodo Hall was placed behind Kodo and the two east and west pagodas were placed forward along a north-south axis.
After that, the faith in the Taima Mandala became popular and the hall where Mandala was enshrined was called 'Hondo.'
There is no honbo (a priest's main living quarters) of the Taima-dera Temple and the central temple buildings are controlled by branch temples which belong to the Jodo-kyo and Koyosan Shingon sect.

Kon-do Hall (an important cultural property)

Irimoya style (building with a half-hipped roof) and hongawarabuki (roof with formal tiles). On the pillar of naijin (inner sanctuary of a shrine or temple) there is an inscription about a donation of rice fields in 1268, and it seems that it was rebuilt before that year, that is, in the early part of the Kamakura period. Although it is smaller than the Kon-do Hall of big temples in Fujiwara-kyo (the Fujiwara Palace; the ancient capital of Fujiwara) and Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara), it seems to have the same scale as when it was founded. The center of faith for the Taima-dera Temple has transferred to Hondo (Mandala Hall) where Taima Mandala was enshrined, but it goes without saying that the original central temple building is the Kon-do Hall. It has doma (dirt floor) inside, in which Honzon, Sozo Miroku-butsu zazo, the standing statue of Kanshitsu Shitenno and others are enshrined.

Kodo Hall (an important cultural property)

It stands behind (north of) Kon-do Hall. Yosemune-zukuri (a square or rectangular building, covered with a hipped roof) and hongawarabuki. It is known that it was rebuilt in 1303, at the end of the Kamakura period, by the ink writing on a ridgepole. Many Buddha statues such as Honzon, the seated statue of Amida Nyorai (an important cultural property), are enshrined there.

Hondo (Mandala Hall) (a national treasure)

It stands in the west of the Kon-do Hall and the Kodo Hall, facing east. Yosemune-zukuri and hongawarabuki. An inscription of the ink writing of a ridgepole shows that it was built in 1161, at the end of the Heian period. However, research at the time of demolition for repair shows that it was a reconstruction of the former hall built in the beginning of the Heian period (about the ninth century) and that a part of material of the building in the Nara period was also diverted. A flat and big Zushi is enshrined in order to hang Taima Mandala in it.

The east pagoda and the west pagoda (national treasures)

Both of them are three-storied pagodas. The east pagoda is such a unique pagoda as the first story has three intervals (in the sense that there are four pillars and three intervals between pillars), the second and third stories have two intervals (in the architecture of temples and shrines in Japan it is unusual to have even-numbered intervals between pillars and a pillar in the center. On the other hand, the first, second and third stories of the west pagoda have three intervals. In addition, while Suien, a design of pattern, on the roof of the west pagoda is orthodox, the one on the east pagoda is unique with a shape like a fish bone (however, it does not seem to have been made at the time of the foundation). Judging from the style of the details, it can be guessed that the east pagoda was built at the end of the Nara period and that the west pagoda was from late Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period. Although there is a little difference in design and period of construction between the east pagoda and the west pagoda, it is very significant as the sole example that east and west pagodas are existing.

National treasures

The east pagoda

The west pagoda

Hondo (Mandala Hall)

Sozo Miroku-butsu zazo: Honzon of Kon-do Hall. It is about 2.2 m high. Sozo was actively produced during the Nara period, but it is comparatively rare to produce a Honzon statue in sozo. The firm face of this statue is similar to the style of the 'Buddha head' in the Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara and guessed to be produced in the Tenmu era (the end of the seventh century) during the first stage of the Taima-dera Temple. It is one of the oldest examples of sozo in Japan.

Taima Mandala Zushi: a big Zushi of about five meters high enshrined in naijin of Hondo (Mandala Hall) in order to hang Taima Mandala. Its flat surfaces are shallow sexanglular and the decorations of gold and silver pictures and gold hyomon (type of lacquer ware) on roof and pillars are made in an ancient style as seen in the Shoso-in treasures, which show that this Zushi was made from the end of the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period. The front doors of Zushi (each three folding doors of left and right) was newly made when Zushi was repaired greatly in 1242. A lotus pond is expressed with gold makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) on a black lacquered base and more than 2,000 people's names of Kechien (making a connection with Buddha to rest their spirits) are also expressed with makie. In addition, these doors were removed and are located in the Nara National Museum.

The figured brocade of Taima Mandala: it is 'Konpon Mandala' mentioned in the section of 'Taima Mandala and a legend of Chujo Hime.'

Bonsho: although it has no inscription, it can be guessed to be one of the oldest bonsho, judging from its style and so on, and a relic in the first stage of Taima-dera Temple. Its style is of an early period before bonsho became formalized, such as inconsistency on the number of renben (lotus petal) of the pedestal and of the bell in two parts. It is hung in the upper story of Shoro, so that it can not be seen up closely.

(Held by Okunoin)

Kurikararyu makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) sutra box

Important cultural properties

Kon-do Hall

Kodo Hall

Yakushi-do Hall

The two scrolls showing the History of the Taima Mandala colored on silk canvas

Three volumes of the History of Taima-dera Temple, colored on paper; pictures were drawn by Mitsumochi TOSA and texts were written by 九筆 such as the Emperor Gonara

Taima Mandala kakefuku (a painting for hanging scroll), colored on silk canvas (it is said to be written by Keishun) (Bunki Mandala)

The two portraits of various deities Mandala painted on the board

Kanshitsu Shitenno ryuzo

It guards the four directions of shumidan (An altar made of fine timber, generally with paneling, hame) at Kon-do Hall. It is the second oldest statue of Shitenno in Japan, next to the statue of Kon-do Hall of Horyu-ji Temple. In addition, it is a significant work as one of the oldest statues made in kanshitu-zukuri (a method of making a Buddha statue, which is made of canvas and Japanese lacquer, and inside of the statue is a cavity) in Japan. While the statues of Shitenno after aging generally shows strenuous movement and a menacing pose, the Shitenno statues of the Taima-dera Temple stand with a gentle look on its face and an exotic facial expression. Many parts of each statue were repaired. Among the four statues, the statue of Jikokuten (Dhrtarastra) comparatively keeps original parts, but the statue of Tamonten (Vaisravana) is a wooden statue made during the Kamakura period as a whole.

The seated wooden statue of Amida Nyorai (Honzon at Kodo)

The seated wooden statue of Amida Nyorai (in Kodo)

The standing wooden statue of Jizo Bosatsu (Jizo Bodhisattva) (in Kodo)

The standing wooden statue of Myodo Bosatsu (in Kodo)

The seated wooden statue of Amida Nyorai (Guhari Amida) (In the Nara National Museum)

The standing wooden statue of Kisshoten (Laksmi) (In the Tokyo National Museum)

The standing wooden statue of Eleven-faced Kannon (In the Tokyo National Museum)

Fourty pieces of the wooden halo, with an imperfect wooden halo


Radentaima karakusagosu (including nenju [rosary])

(Held at Nakanobo Hall)

Nakanobo Shoin

(Held at Okunoin)


Hojo (an abbot's chamber)

Shoro gate

Ten spiritual realms, colored on silk canvas, Rokkyoku Byobu (a six-panel screen)

The picture scroll on the achievement of Honen Shonin, colored on silk canvas, consisting of forty-eight volumes

The repousse bronze Buddha statue of Triad

The seated wooden statue of Enko Daishi

{Senchaku hongan nenbutsu shu} (the holy writings of the Jodo Sect)

(Held by the Seinan-in Temple)

The standing wooden statue of Eleven-faced Kannon

The standing wooden statue of Sho-Kannon (Aryavalokitesvara)

The standing wooden statue of Senju Kannon (Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara)

Places of scenic beauty and Historic sites

Nakanobo Garden: made during the beginning of the Edo period, designated on May 1, 1934


Twenty minute walk from Taimadera Station on Kintetsu Minamiosaka line of the Kinki Nippon Railway Company

[Original Japanese]