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  • Japanese/Chinese: 鑑真 (Ganjin / Jiànzhēn)

Ganjin was a Chinese monk who traveled to Japan in 755, where he founded the temple of Tôshôdai-ji, and performed the first Buddhist ordinations of Japanese monks.

He famously made numerous failed attempts to reach Japan, an indication of how dangerous the sea crossing was at that time. Ganjin finally successfully arrived in Japan in 753/12, on his fifth attempt, accompanying a Japanese mission to Tang China on their return trip. Three of the mission's four ships were blown off-course and made port at Okinawa Island before making their way to Satsuma province in Kyushu.[1] Records of this incident refer to the island as Akonaha or Akonawa, and are considered the first reference to (a term which would later evolve into) "Okinawa."[2]

In 755, an ordination hall (kaidan'in) was established at Tôdai-ji, and Ganjin, perhaps the first ordained Chinese monk of sufficient rank to ever visit Japan, performed a ceremony in which he ordained 400 individuals, including Empress Kômyô.[3]

Tôshôdai-ji, a major temple in Nara founded by Ganjin, retains today an 8th century dry lacquer statue of him, which is among the most famous Buddhist sculptures from this period, and has been designated a National Treasure.


  1. Gallery labels. Imperial Envoys to Tang China : Early Japanese Encounters with Continental Culture Exhibition. Nara National Museum. April through June 2010.
  2. "Akonahajima," Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.; Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 51.; Though this may seem a totally unrelated term, phonetically, there is an obvious connection, however tenuous. The A is like O, kona is quite similar to kina, and ha could alternately be pronounced wa.
  3. Penelope Mason. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall (2005), 70.