Manpuku-ji is an Ôbaku Zen temple in Uji, founded in 1661 by the Chinese monk Yǐnyuán Lóngqí on land given him by the Konoe family for that purpose. The temple is often cited as the finest example of Ming Dynasty architecture surviving in Japan.
Yǐnyuán Lóngqí, known as Ingen in Japanese, was the head of the temple of Wanfu-si (J: Manpuku-ji) on Mt. Huangbo (J: Ôbaku) in Fujian province at that time, and invited to Japan by a group of Japanese Rinzai Zen monks, communicating via the Chinese community associated with the Nanjing Temple in Nagasaki. Their intention was to have him help to revive the Rinzai sect, which had fallen into decline in Japan. Ingen initially declined their request, but eventually relented, coming to Japan in 1654. After audiences with Emperor Go-Mizunoo and Shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna, Ingen was given permission to establish a new temple, and did so on land in Uji granted to him by the Konoe family for that purpose. Construction was undertaken chiefly by Chinese workers, and was completed in 1669. Monks at the temple in its early decades included a number of Chinese fleeing the fall of the Ming Dynasty.
Manpuku-ji was soon made the head temple of Rinzai Zen in Japan, and as of 1974 had 478 branch temples, 458 priests, and over 244,500 parishioners. Though Zen had been in Japan for many centuries at this point, it was always regarded as the most Chinese, or as the least assimilated, form of Buddhism, and the construction of Manpuku-ji reinvigorated a sense of the Chineseness (and/or foreignness more generally) of Zen in Japan. Up until 1740, the temple's abbots were all priests from Wanfu-si in Fujian, and after that, Chinese priests alternated with Japanese ones through the end of the 18th century. Each successive head of the Manpuku-ji was obliged to travel to Edo and to pay respects to the shogun in order to receive official appointment to their position as abbot, and to be authorized to wear shie, a type of purple rope restricted to only the most elite Buddhist priests. Rituals continue to be performed, and sutras recited, in a Chinese-influenced or Chinese-inflected manner at Manpuku-ji even today, having some considerable influence upon Zen practice elsewhere throughout the archipelago.
Abbots of Manpuku-ji
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- Gallery labels, "Blossoming Plum Tree," LACMA.