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  • Founded: 1105
  • Japanese: 中尊寺 (Chuuson-ji)

Chûson-ji is a temple in Hiraizumi, established and maintained as the chief temple of the Northern Fujiwara branch family from its construction in 1105 to 1120s, until the destruction of the family and the city in 1189 by the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo.

The site was previously that of a Tendai temple called Kôdaiju-in, founded in 850 by Ennin. In 1105, however, Fujiwara no Kiyohira, head of the Northern Fujiwara family, began construction of new structures on the site. The new temple, named Chûson-ji in representation of its central location both within the Tôhoku region and as a major centre (chû meaning "center" or "central") of Buddhism, served as one of the chief elements in Kiyohira's grand project to turn Hiraizumi into a cultural center to rival the capital (Kyoto).

Despite the destruction visited upon the Northern Fujiwara and their city of Hiraizumi by Minamoto (shogunate) forces in 1189, one building survives from the original construction project. Completed in 1124, the Konjiki-dô ("Golden Colored Hall") was originally conceived as a secondary worship hall, within which worshipers would circumambulate around a central altar and central image of Amida.

The Konjikidô is a square hall, three bays on each side, organized around a central moya one bay square in area, which contains the altar and sacred images (sculptures). The central statue of Amida is flanked by the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi, along with six statues of Jizô and two guardian figures. The embalmed body of Fujiwara no Kiyohira is entombed within the altar, while those of his son Fujiwara no Motohira and grandson Fujiwara no Hidehira are entombed separately in the rear corners of the structure, along with the head of Kiyohira's great-grandson Fujiwara no Yasuhira, who was killed in the 1189 attack on the city.

In accordance with the wealth of the Northern Fujiwara, and Kiyohira's dream of creating a new, lavish cultural capital, the Konjikidô is extremely lavishly adorned in gold, silver, lacquer and mother-of-pearl inlays, with elaborate designs on the columns, support struts of the eaves, and elsewhere. Images of Dainichi Nyorai in lacquer, gold and silver dust, and maki-e adorned the central pillars, and designs of birds and flowers in gilt bronze covered the sides of the altar. The entire building was (and is today) covered, inside and out, almost completely in lacquer and gold, and has been compared to a jewel box.

The roof of the hall is pyramidal in shape, and though the Konjikidô would have once stood on its own, open to the elements, following extensive restoration efforts in the 1960s, it is today contained within a glass climate-controlled environment within a larger concrete structure.


  • "History." Chûsonji Official Website. 2001-2007. Accessed 16 November 2009.
  • Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. pp152-154.