From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
The main gate at Nanzen-ji
  • Established: 1291, Emperor Kameyama
  • Other Names: 瑞龍山太平興国南禅禅寺 (zuiryuuzan taihei koukoku nanzen zenji)
  • Japanese: 南禅寺 (Nanzenji)

Nanzen-ji is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto's Higashiyama district, the head temple of the Nanzen-ji school of Rinzai Zen. It is ranked above the Kyoto Five Mountains (Kyoto Gozan; the five great Zen temples of Kyoto).

The temple traces its origins to Emperor Kameyama's 1264 establishment of a villa he called Zenrinjiden. In 1291, Kameyama then converted the villa into a Zen temple; its first head priest was Daimin-kokushi. Many of the temple's buildings were completed under the second head priest, Nan'in-kokushi.

The temple suffered considerable damage from fires in 1394, 1448, and 1467; most of the buildings standing on the grounds today date to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (c. 1573-1600).

Beyond the temple's main gate (sanmon) stands a second gate known as the Chokushimon (lit. "Imperial messenger gate"). Originally the hi-no-gomon of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, it was granted to the temple by Empress Meishô in 1641.

The temple's two hôjô (abbot's quarters) have been designated National Treasures. Originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi around 1585 to serve as a new Seiryôden for the Imperial Palace, the Dai-hôjô ("Large Abbot's Quarters") was gifted to the temple in 1611 by Emperor Go-Yôzei. The shingled-roof structure is considered a valuable example of the shinden-zukuri architecture style, and faces the temple's front garden, said to have been designed by Kobori Enshû around 1600. The hall contains a Heian period sculpture of Kannon as its chief image of worship, and fusuma (sliding door) paintings by Kanô Genshin and Kanô Eitoku. The ko-hôjô ("Small Abbot's Quarters"), meanwhile, attached to the dai-hôjô, was previously a shoin (study) at Momoyama castle. It contains a famous sliding door painting by Kanô Tan'yû, depicting a tiger drinking from a stream.

Nanzen-ji has thirteen sub-temples (tatchû), including Nanzen-in, Kôun-ji, Bokugo-an, Jishin-in, Shôteki-in, Shôin-an, Nan'yô-in, Shinjô-in, Kôtoku-an, Chôshô-in, Konchi-in, Kiun-in, and Tenju-an.


  • Pamphlets available on-site.