Chūson-ji

Chūson-ji

Chūson-ji (中尊寺?) is a Buddhist temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. It is the head temple of the Tendai sect in Tōhoku (northeastern Japan). The Tendai sect claims that the temple was founded in 850 by Ennin, the third chief abbot of the sect, but most scholars believe that Chūson-ji was founded by Fujiwara no Kiyohira in about 1100. There is no archaeological or historical record of Buddhist activity in this area before 1100.

The Konjiki-dō (金色堂) or ‘Golden Hall’ is a mausoleum containing the mummified remains of the leaders of the Northern Fujiwara (奥州藤原氏 Ōshū Fujiwara-shi) clan who ruled much of northern Japan in the 12th century. It is one of two buildings that survive from the original Chūson-ji temple complex, the other being a sutra repository. The building is made of wood entirely covered with gold leaf decorated with imported mother-of-pearl. It was carefully rebuilt from 1962 to 1968 by a team of specialists. The building measures five-and-a-half meters on each side and is eight meters tall. The interior of the building contains three altars, one for each of the first three Fujiwara lords. Originally there were 33 sculptures inside the temple, eleven on each altar, but now one is missing. Each altar had a seated Amida surrounded by standing Kannon and Seishi, six Jizō and two Niten statues. One Niten figure is missing.

The mummies were last examined in 1950. It is assumed that the mummy of Fujiwara no Kiyohira was placed under the central altar. Fujiwara no Motohira’s remains were identified as he is known to have died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His mummy was found under the northwest altar. Fujiwara no Hidehira’s remains were found under the southwest altar next to a casket containing the head of his son Fujiwara no Yasuhira who was beheaded in 1189.

The Konjiki-dō formerly sat outdoors in the open air. In 1288 it was covered with a wooden structure to protect it from the elements. Today it sits behind thick acrylic glass within a concrete building (constructed in 1965) and is visible only from the front and sides. Shōgyo Ōba, a maki-e lacquer artist, helped to restore the interior lacquer work in 1964.

In June 2011, Chūson-ji was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the “Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi”.

Outline
Chūson-ji (中尊寺?) is a Buddhist temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

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