Tenryuji Temple Tours - A World Heritage Site and one of the most historic site in Kyoto. Tenryuji Temple is the most important Zen Temple in Kyoto.
Tenryuji Temple (天龍寺, Tenryū-ji) more formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji (天龍資聖禅寺, Tenryū Shiseizen-ji) is the head temple of the Tenryū sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, located in Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō Ward, (Arashiyama region), Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first chief priest was Musō Soskice. As a temple related to both the Ashikaga family and Emperor Godaigo, the temple is held in high esteem, and is ranked as the most important (Rinzai) Zen temple in Kyoto. In 1994, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as one of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto".
Arashiyama is a pleasant, touristy district in the
outskirts of Kyoto. Its landmark is the Togetsukyo Bridge which was
rebuilt in 1934 exactly like the original. Walk through the Sagano
Bamboo Grove, then onto Jojakkoji Temple, final home of Empress Dowager
Kenrei-mon-in. Later visit Tenryuji Temple,
a leading Zen temple built in 1339 famous for its landscape gardens.
Arashiyama is particularly beautiful during the cherry blossom and
autumn leaf seasons.
More information and online bookings for this tour.
Tenryuji Temple - Cultural Properties
cultural properties" of Tenryū-ji include:
Three portraits of Musō Soseki, and paintings of Avalokitesvara and Seiryō Hōgen Zenji/Yunmen Daishi
The wooden carving of Gautama Buddha.
Various illustrations and writings in the document archive, such as Shanaingoryō-ezu (遮那院御領絵図, Shanaingoryō-ezu), Ōkoshokyōkanji-no-ezu (往古諸郷館地之絵図, Ōkoshokyōkanji-no-ezu), Ōeikinmyō-ezu (応永鈞命絵図, Ōeikinmyō-ezu), Tōryōeiyo-bakuseki (東陵永與墨蹟, Tōryōeiyo-bakuseki), and various writings of Kitabatake Chikafusa
The garden, created by Musō Soseki, features a circular promenade around Sōgen Pond (曹源池, sōgenchi), and is registered as both a special place of scenic beauty and a historical landmark.
Tenryuji Temple - History
In the early Heian Period, Empress Tachibana no Kachiko, wife of Emperor Saga, founded a temple called Danrin-ji (檀林寺, Danrin-ji) on the site of present-day Tenryū-ji. The temple fell into disrepair over the next four hundred years, before, in the mid-thirteenth century, Emperor Gosaga and his son Emperor Kameyama turned the area into an imperial villa they christened "Kameyama Detatched Palace" (亀山殿, kameyamadono). The name "Kameyama", which literally means "turtle mountain", was selected due to the shape of Mt. Ogura, which lies to the west of Tenryū-ji it is said to be similar to the shape of a turtle's shell. All Japanese temples constructed after the Nara period have a sangō, a mountain name used as an honorary prefix. Tenryū-ji's sangō, Reigizan (霊亀山, Reigizan lit. "mountain of the spirit of the turtle"), was also selected due to the shape of Mt. Ogura.
The palace was converted into a temple at the behest of Ashikaga Takauji,
who wished to use the temple to hold a memorial service for Emperor Go-daigo.
Ashikaga became the shogun in 1338, and Go-daigo died in Yoshino the
following year. Ashikaga opposed the failed Kemmu Restoration, which was
started by Emperor Go-daigo, and the emperor decreed that Ashikaga should be
hunted down and executed. When his former-friend-turned-enemy passed away,
Ashikaga recommended that Zen monk Musō Soseki construct a temple for his
memorial service. It is said that the temple was originally going to be
named Ryakuō Shiseizen-ji (暦応資聖禅寺, Ryakuō Shiseizen-ji), Ryakuō being the
name of the reign of the emperor of the northern court at that time.
However, Ashikaga Takauji's younger brother, Tadayoshi supposedly had a
dream about a golden dragon flitting about the Ōi River (also known as the
Hozu River), which lies south of the temple, and the temple was instead
named Tenryū Shiseizen-ji the term "Tenryū" literally means "dragon of the
sky" . In order to raise the funds to build the temple, a trading vessel
called "Tenryūjisen" was constructed and set asail. A ceremony was held on
the seventh anniversary of Emperor Go-Daigo's death in 1345, which
functioned as both a celebration of the completion of the temple, and as Go-daigo's
The temple prospered as the most important Rinzai temple in Kyoto, and the temple grounds grew to roughly 330,000 square meters in size, extending all the way to present-day Katabira-no-Tsuji station on the Keifuku Railway. At one time, the massive grounds were said to contain some 150 sub-temples, however, the temple was plagued with numerous fires, and all of the original buildings have been destroyed. During the middle ages, the temple met with fire six times: in 1358, 1367, 1373, 1380, 1447 and 1467. The temple was destroyed again during the Ōnin War and subsequently rebuilt, but in 1815 it was lost to yet another fire. The temple was severely damaged during the Hamaguri Rebellion in 1864, and most of the buildings as we see them today are reconstructions from the latter half of the Meiji period. The garden to the west of the abbey, created by Musō Soseki, shows only traces of its original design.
The tombs of Emperors Gosaga and Kageyama lie within the temple grounds.
Tenryuji Temple - Layout
On the eastern
boundary of the temple grounds lie two gates: Chokushi Gate (勅使門,
chokushimon) and Middle Gate (中門, chūmon), from which the path to the
temple itself leads west. Generally, Zen temple grounds are designed so that
they face the south, with major buildings aligned along the north-south
axis. Tenryū-ji's layout is an exception to this principle. Sub-temples line
both sides of the path, which leads to the lecture hall. There are numerous
buildings behind the lecture hall, such as large abbey (大方丈, ōhōjō), the
small abbey (小方丈, kohōjō), the kitchen, the meditation hall, and Tahō-den
(多宝殿, Tahō-den) hall, however, each of these is modern reconstruction.
Chokushi gate is a one-storey gate, constructed in yotsuashimon style. It is the oldest structure on the temple grounds and is representative of the style of the Momoyama Period.
The teaching hall is located at the center of the temple grounds, which is unusual for a Zen temple. The extant version is a 1900 reconstruction. It contains an image of Gautama Buddha, flanked by two guardians. The decorative painting of a dragon on the ceiling called Unryū-zu (雲龍図, Unryū-zu lit. "image of the cloud dragon") is the work of Suzuki Shōnen.
Ōhōjō was constructed in 1899.
Kohōjō constructed in 1924.
Tahō-den was constructed in 1934. Although it is a modern building, it was constructed in Kamakura Period style. It contains a wooden image of Emperor Go-Daigo.
Tenryuji Temple Pictures
Click on the pictures below for a larger version and more