F In Kyoto: the Tenryu-ji Temple - jeepneyjinggoy

In Kyoto: the Tenryu-ji Temple


On the list: visit as many United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage sites in Kyoto as I can. I had five days in the ancient capital of Japan and that was my plan.

First up, the Tenryu-ji Temple. It’s nestled at the foot of the mountains on the western outskirts of Kyoto in Arashiyama. It was the third Arashiyama attraction I visited, following the Togenkuyo Bridge and the Sagano Bamboo Grove.

Entrance to the Tenryu-ji Temple


Where the Tenryu-ji sits today is the former site of the Danrin-ji Temple, which was established in the 9th century. Danrin-ji is historically significant as the first Zen temple in Japan established in the 9th century.


Such a serene scene

Guanyin aka the Goddess of Mercy


In the 13th century, Emperor Kameyama built a villa on the same property, where his grandson Go-Daigo was raised. Go-Daigo became the next emperor.

The Tenryu-ji Temple was the property’s next occupant. It was established in 1939 by the shogun Ashikagi Takauji in honor of Emperor Go-Daigo, who passed away in Yoshino after the civil war that brought the Ashikaga family to power.


The Daihojo (Large Hojo. Hojo = Abbott’s quarter), the largest building in the Tenryu-Ji Temple is used primarily for ceremonial functions and other large events. Its west side faces the Sogen Garden.


The Tenryu-ji Temple is also known as the “Temple of the Heavenly Dragon” (“Tenryu” translates to “dragon of the sky”). It wasn’t its intended name, but the brother of the shogun dreamt about a golden dragon dashing over the Oi River, which lies south of the temple. The temple was named Tenryu Shiseizen-ji. Tenryu-ji is the head temple of the Tenryu-ji branch of the Rinzai Zen Buddhism. Appointed as the temple’s founding abbot about was Zen master Muso Soseki.


Inside the Daihojo, the large cloud dragon on the sliding doors facing the Sogen Pond was painted by the artist Wakasa Butsugai


It was Muso Soseki, who completed the temple’s construction after he sent the shipping vessel, the Tenryu-ji ship, on a trade mission to Yuan-dynasty China. His lineage also played a lead role in the prospering “gozanbungaku,” a Zen literary culture. Tenryu-ji was ranked first in the “Five Zen Mountains of Kyoto.”


The Hatto (Dhrama Hall). In former times the Hatto in a Zen temple was where the master delivered his sermons, teaching the Buddha Dharma to the monks. Today it is used primarily for important ceremonial functions. The Cloud Dragon can be seen on the ceiling of this structure.

The gate between the Hatto & the Daihojo


Since the temples foundation, Tenryu-ji has been ravaged by fire eight times, with 1864 as the most recent one. Thus, most of the buildings we see today date only to the Meiji Period (1868-1912).


Looking up at the architectural detail of the Kuri (temple living quarters). The Kuri is one of the major buildings traditionally counted among the “seven halls” (shichido garan) that constitute the ideal Zen monastic compound


Image of Daruma at Tenryu-ji. Daruma in the image of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.

Bridgeway leading to the Shoin drawing room


But one of Muso Soseki’s handiwork remains in its original form, . Designed in the 14th century, the strolling pond garden displaying the four seasons is one of the oldest in Japan.

One of the highlights in the temple complex, the Sogen Pond created by Muso Soseki. It’s first place in Japan designated by the government as a Site of Special Historic and Scenic Importance, and the United Nations designated it as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1994.


It was the first place in Japan designated by the government as a Site of Special Historic and Scenic Importance (Shiseki, Tokubetsu Meisho), and the United Nations designated it as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1994.


The Sogenchi Garden also employs “borrowed scenery” (shakkei), in which nearby mountains are used to give the garden a sense of added depth.

A stroll around the garden or sit and immerse in its beauty is not to be missed, especially during summer (view it with the Shoin in the background), in winter (view it from the Hojo) and in Fall, Mount Arashi serves as a breathtaking backdrop of the garden.


Tourists in Japanese garb


Since the seasons is in topic, during spring the blossoms of the cherry trees surrounding the Tahoden (Hall of many Treasures) will be in bloom. Check out the Cloud Dragon painting on the ceiling of the Hatoo (Dharma Hall) as well.

The Hall of Many Treasures aka Tahoden. Its location is said to be on the site where young prince Go-Daigo studied while living with his grandfather Emperor Kameyama.


The Tajo-den is beautiful to visit in spring when the blossoms of the cherry trees are in full bloom


The Tajo-den is surrounded with cherry trees


Old cherry tree by the Tajo-den

For more photos of this feature, visit Jeepney Jinggoy website.
For lifestyle features, visit of apples and lemons website.
Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com.

Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.