Kyoto Two

Kiyomizudera is the most beautiful temple in Kyoto.
Founded in 778, it is a large, visually stunning complex.

Sanjusangendo (founded in 1164) has Japan’s longest
wooden building, housing 1001 thousand-armed Kannons.

Tenryuji (founded in 1339) is the number one
Zen Temple in Kyoto’s Five Mountain System.

  Kiyomizudera                           Sanjusangendo


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Kiyomizudera, Sanjusangendo, and Tenryuji are in the following Galleries (Direct Links) —

Japan: Kyoto Temples 1
Daitokuji, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera

Japan: Kyoto Temples 2
Sanjusangendo, Tenryuji, Toji


(Clear Water Temple)

In the Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains) above Kyoto, at the top of a long street
lined with shops and restaurants catering to temple visitors and tourists for hundreds
of years, is Kiyomizudera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire temple complex
was built without nails. Founded as a small shrine beside the Otowa no Taki Falls in 778
by the monk Enchin (who enshrined an image of Kannon there), the first Hall was built in 798
when General Tamuramaro dismantled his house and rebuilt it at the top of the waterfall. Later,
when the Emperor rewarded Tamuramaro for his deeds against the Northern Barbarians
with the Shishinden at the Nagaoka Palace, he donated that to the temple as well.

Most current structures were built by Tokugawa Iemitsu (3rd Tokugawa Shogun)
in 1633, after a disastrous fire in 1629 destroyed all but the western buildings.


Kiyomizudera Nio Mon 9527

The Ro-Mon (Red Gate) Tower houses the Nio guardian statues and is the
main gate into the temple complex, next to the Shoro (bell tower) and Sanjunoto.

The brilliant vermilion paint up against the bright blue sky (which didn’t last long)
simply cried out for the obligatory, dramatic low-angle shot. I couldn’t help it...


Kiyomizudera Monk 9523

A mendicant monk near the front of the temple.


Kiyomizudera Monk 9590

Same monk, later in the day. Some hat...


Kiyomizudera 9530


Kiyomizudera Shoro 9531

The Shoro was built in 1596 (the bell was cast
in 1478 and moved after the new tower was built).
This bell tower was built on order of the Emperor.

At left: a view of the Sanjunoto and the Saimon
(West Gate) from the front of the temple,
just inside the Nioh-mon gate.

The stele inscription is from Buddhist sutra:
Nenpi Kannon Riki (Believe in Kannon's Power).


Kiyomizudera 9525

I suppose you’re used to these by now... the requisite dramatic wide-angle shot shows
the Nio-mon on the left, the Shoro in the center, and the Sai-mon and Sanjunoto at right.


Kiyomizudera Saimon 9535

The Sai-mon (West Gate), built in 1633 after the great fire.


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9534


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9538

The Sanjunoto (three-story pagoda) is the tallest
three-story pagoda in Japan. Rebuilt in 1633
after the fire that destroyed most temple
buildings, it was repainted in 1987.

The Sanjunoto houses a statue of Dainichi Nyorai.


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9540

More images of the Sanjunoto are further below.


Kiyomizudera Tamurado 9543

Tamuramaro Sakanoe was the samurai general who helped the temple get built in 798.

Tamuramaro was hunting in the forest for a stag one day. His wife was pregnant, and in
those days it was thought that stag’s blood would ease delivery. He encountered Enchin on
Mt. Otowa, who convinced him to spare the stag’s life. Tamuramaro converted to Buddhism,
and he donated his own house for a new main hall, dismantling and rebuilding it at the top of
Otowa no Taki Falls. He again was the benefactor when later, he donated the Shishinden of
the Imperial Palace at Nagaoka, which the Emperor gave him for his military services after
Emperor Kammu had decided to move his Court to Kyoto to get away from meddlesome
Nara priests. The Shishinden stood until 1629, when it was destroyed in the great fire.
The Tamurado was moved from Nagaoka in the late 8th century, and is dedicated as
the Founder’s Hall to the great samurai general who helped the temple get its start.


Kiyomizudera Tamurado 9545

Tamurado is also called the Kanisan-do (Founder’s Hall), and holds statues of
Gyoei the Hermit (who gave the monk Enchin the piece of wood possessed by
the spirit of Kannon to make the statue of Kannon Bosatsu originally enshrined
at the first Temple; Enshin the Priest, and Tamuramaro and his wife Takako.


Kiyomizudera 9544

The rear of the Kyodo (the Sutra library and storehouse).

The Sutra hall contains the Buddhist scriptures, as well as statues of the Buddhist deities of
Virtue (Monzu) and Wisdom (Fugen), who are also flanking Shakyamuni in image 9559 below.


Kiyomizudera 9546

View to the west past the Tamurado and the Kyodo (Sutra Hall) to the Sanjunoto.


Kiyomizudera Kairo 9548

The covered colonnade (Kairo) leading to the
Hondo (Main Hall). Interesting lanterns they have.

Speaking of lanterns (as we were...), to the right
 is an ancient lantern with hamon, (family crests).
 The family or business that donated the lanterns
 (I am sure there were quite a few of a specific
 lantern donated at once) had them made with
their crest(s) as part of the design.
(Heian period advertising)


Kiyomizudera Ancient Lantern 9552


Kiyomizudera Daikokuten 9549

One of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods, Daikokuten is
 the God of Farmers and Wealth, Agriculture, Rice,
  and Good Fortune. He holds a magic mallet and his
 treasure bag and stands on two bales of rice. He is
always smiling, except in his earliest statues. His
origins were as a ferocious Hindu War God.


Kiyomizudera Lanterns 9556

A pair of exceptional copper lanterns.

As a westerner, I don’t get to see a lot of
this sort of thing, and as you have probably
noticed, I took quite a few images of lanterns
in Japan. This pair really stood out in my opinion.


Kiyomizudera Shaka 9559

Shakyamuni flanked by Monzu (deity of Wisdom) and Fugen (deity of Virtue) in the Shaka-do.

Kiyomizudera Amida 9562

There was a difficult situation with the Amida shot.
There were a lot of people paying homage to Amida,
so I was forced to wait for quite a while just to be able
to shoot the angle that included the ceiling painting.
Normally, I would then take a close shot for detail.
What happened was that I had just two seconds
to get a shot before waves of people came in.

Rather than disturb their reverie, I decided
to get the close shot on the way back,
 and forgot. So I am doing several
 different presentations of this
image to give you large
enough sections for
detail examination.

First, a detail crop including the plaque,
then close crops of the Amida and ceiling.



Kiyomizudera Amida 9562c


Kiyomizudera Amida Nyorai 9562c


Kiyomizudera Amida Painting 9562c


Kiyomizudera Hondo 9564

The Hondo (Main Hall), shot from the verandah of the Okuno-in (inner temple).

The Hondo is not tiled like most temple buildings. The roof is made of cypress
shingles as a reminder of its heritage as a part of Imperial Palace architecture.

The Butai (Dancing Stage) veranda is cantilevered on scaffolding 50 feet over the hillside.
The scaffolding is built on 139 wooden pillars. The Japanese expression: “to jump off of
the porch at Kiyomizu” is like the English: “to take the plunge”. In the Edo period, there
 was a short-lived tradition... if you survived the leap off of the Kiyomizu veranda your
wish would be granted (that had better be some wish). It’s kind of nasty at the
bottom in some places, with a steep hill into trees and stone lanterns... the
grass in between the rocks, trees and lanterns was probably the target.

234 jumps were recorded, 200 survived. No data exists on wish fulfillment.
Two very highly detailed (520kb and 691kb) images of the scaffolding are
below, showing the extensive support structure (which uses no fasteners).


Kiyomizudera Hondo Scaffolding 9578


Kiyomizudera Hondo Scaffolding 9579


Kiyomizudera 9567

A view of the Hondo, Kairo (colonnade), Todoroki-mon (middle gate) and Sanjunoto
from the path beyond the Okuno-in (inner temple) on the way to the Koyasunoto pagoda.


Kiyomizudera from Koyasunoto 9568

The view from across the valley, taken from just to the right of Koyasunoto pagoda.


Kiyomizudera Koyasunoto Sanjunoto 9570

Koyasunoto is a 3-story pagoda across the valley with a statue of Koyasu Kannon, and is dedicated to easy childbirth.


Kiyomizudera Koyasunoto Sanjunoto 9572

Detail of the valley side of the pagoda.


Kiyomizudera Koyasunoto Sanjunoto 9574

Detail of the side opposite the valley (near the path).


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9577

Taken from across the valley at Koyasunoto, the Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto erupts from a sea of sakura.


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9575

What a difference 45 seconds makes. I took this
image and then waited for a small break in the clouds
that was approaching the sun, allowing a bit of the long
rays of light through for image 9577, shown just above.


Kiyomizudera Sanjunoto 9584


Kiyomizudera Ishidoro 9566

I just had to do a couple more stone lantern shots.


Kiyomizudera Ishidoro 9586

It’s a disease... and I’m afraid that it’s incurable.


Kiyomizudera Jizo Bosatsu 9581


Kiyomizudera Vermilion Sakura 9587

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Kiyomizudera, Sanjusangendo, and Tenryuji are in the following Galleries (Direct Links) —

Japan: Kyoto Temples 1
Daitokuji, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera

Japan: Kyoto Temples 2
Sanjusangendo, Tenryuji, Toji



Sanjusangendo means hall with 33 bays (Rengeo-in officially: “Hall of the Lotus King”).
Sanjusangendo was founded in 1164 by the order of the retired Emperor Go-shirakawa.
The original building was destroyed in a fire in 1249. The current building was built in 1266.
The temple is designated a National Treasure, and was the site of Miyamoto Musashi’s
famous duel with Yoshioka Denshichiro in 1604. The Toshiya, a popular archery
tournament, has been held at the temple continuously since the Edo period.


Sanjusangendo 9512

At 120 meters (394 feet), this is the longest wooden building in Japan.

Shooting (and processing) this image was very challenging. Dark wood, light sky...


Sanjusangendo 9508
Part of the army of 1001 thousand-armed Kannons.


Sanjusangendo 9500

The main deity is a thousand-armed Kannon
sculpture created by Tankei, a famous sculptor
in the Kamakura period (early 12th century).
The sculpture in front is Ashura (Asura).


Sanjusangendo 9492

The sculpture at the far left playing the drum is Kinnara, an attendant of Tamonten.

The main sculpture of Avalokitesvara is flanked by a thousand 1000-armed Kannons.
These life-sized statues are made of Japanese Cypress. 124 of them date to the original
temple (1164) which burned in 1249. The statues were rescued from the fire, and the main
hall was rebuilt in 1266. The remaining 876 statues were rebuilt in the 13th century. The
statues are arranged in 10 rows of 50 columns on either side of Avalokitesvara, and in
front of the 1000 Kannons are 28 guardian deities and the gods of Wind and Thunder.
The building housing the statues is 394 feet long, with 33 spaces between the pillars.
The number 33 was chosen because Kannon can assume 33 different shapes
on her missions of mercy (Kannon is the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy).


Sanjusangendo 9494

The guardian in front left was very difficult to identify... for good reason.

This is a representation of Nandaryu-o (Nanda-naga-raja), King of the Dragons
(and what must be his attendant). I was of course looking for the attendant... silly me.
I should have known that the dragon is the important one. They always are, you know.

You would not believe how much research goes into the Japan section.


Sanjusangendo 9502

An Apsara (celestial musician, servant to the Deva Kings)
stands in front of the Senju-Kannons (thousand-armed Kannons).


Sanjusangendo Apsara Kannons 9502, 9508c
(Composite will open in a second window)

A composite of two detail crops from images shown above.

The Apsara are celestial beings which are servants of the Deva Kings
(Shitenno, such as Komokuten). Often, they are dancers or musicians.
You already know about the Senju-Kannon (thousand-armed Kannon).


Sanjusangendo 9492c

A detail crop from the center of 9492.


Technically, these are Juichimen Senju-Kannon
(eleven-headed, thousand-armed Kannon)

(detail crop  —  no linked image)
cropped and resized from Sanjusangendo 9492c LG
(the full-sized version of the previous image)


Sanjusangendo Garden 9514

This is the garden pond in front of the Kairo (roofed colonnade).

While the flat, somewhat dark and diffuse light mixed with a white sky caused trouble when
shooting the architecture and interior (no flash), it really helped in the garden (minimal shadows).


Sanjusangendo Garden 9516

Kairo and garden next to one of the temple gates.


Sanjusangendo West Gate 9518

A great example of an early Kouraimon (Korean style) gate. The gate has a tiled roof
with Chidori (plover, peaked) gable, supported on pillars which also hold the hinges.
The pillars are supported by two side-pillars (hikaebashira) with their own gabled,
tiled roofs which protect the side pillars from weather (and the opened gates).

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Kiyomizudera, Sanjusangendo, and Tenryuji are in the following Galleries (Direct Links) —

Japan: Kyoto Temples 1
Daitokuji, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera

Japan: Kyoto Temples 2
Sanjusangendo, Tenryuji, Toji



Tenryuji was founded in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji, 1st Shogun of the Muromachi period
on the spot Danrinji was created by Empress Tachibana in the early Heian period. 400 years
later Danrinji was converted in the 13th c. to an Imperial villa by Emperor Go-Saga, and Ashikaga
Takauji converted this villa into Tenryuji in order to hold a memorial service for Emperor Go-Daigo.

Takauji had forced Go-Daigo (who had ended the Kamakura Shogunate by force) from the throne
and after Go-Daigo died, Takauji had a fit of conscience and feared Go-Daigo’s spirit was restless.
Takauji and priest Muso Soseki financed the temple partially by a trading mission with China.

It was named Tenryuji because Takauji’s younger brother Tadayoshi had a dream about a golden
dragon flying over the Oi River (which lies south of the temple). Tenryu means Dragon of the Sky.
(Although that is the literal translation, most sources say the name means “Heavenly Dragon”).

Tenryuji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At one time, it contained 150 sub-temples, but the
damage by six major fires in the 14th and 15th centuries devastated the temple, and it was
further destroyed during the Onin War (1467-77). Rebuilt after the Onin War, it burned in
the early 19th c., and was further damaged during the Hamaguri Rebellion in 1864.

Tenryuji is the number one temple in Kyoto’s Five Mountains system.


Tenryuji Kuri 9251
(Priest’s quarters)

In the 1430s, Tenryuji increased in importance when it entered into a tributary
relationship with the Emperor of Ming Dynasty China. At the time, China would not
allow trade outside of its borders except with vassals, and the Ashikagas refused to
allow the Chinese to control their foreign affairs. The arrangement with Tenryuji meant
that Tenryuji had a virtual monopoly on trade with China in exchange for Chinese control
over the selection of the Abbot of the Temple. They coordinated trade through the 19th c.

Note the goblin tile (onigawara) at the peak of the larger roof. A detail crop is below right
(no linked image on detail crop), and a tight shot of one that they have on display is below left.


Tenryuji Onigawara 9246

An onigawara tile that they have on display.
At right is a detail crop from 9251 above.

Onigawara (troll or goblin tiles) derived from
creatures in folklore. The term originated in China
and at first, in Japan they were considered to be
invisible spirits or gods that caused disasters or
disease. Evolving into trolls, demons or goblins,
in modern times they have lost their wickedness.


Tenryuji Monk's Quarters Garden 9213


Tenryuji Chokushi Gate detail 9214

Chokushimon (Gate for the Imperial Messenger)

The Chokushimon is constructed in yotsuashimon style, representative of the Momoyama period.
Yotsuashimon means four-legged gate, a gate with four posts in front and behind the main pillars.
The Momoyama period is that just prior to the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603.

The roof is shingled with Cypress Bark. Chokushimon is the oldest structure on the temple grounds,
transferred from Fushimi Castle. Due to fires, most buildings date from the Meiji period (late 19th c.).


Tenryuji Temple Kannon 9217

A statue of Maria Kannon (note the cross) in the garden. Kakure Kirishitans (17th-18th century Christians) often made Kannon images to represent saints and the Virgin Mary (the religion was outlawed after the Shimabara Rebellion in 1630).


Tenryuji Garden Shrine 9218


Tenryuji Kuri 9221

The Dai Hojo (Abbot’s Quarters) and Kuri (living quarters).


Tenryuji Kuri 9220

The view towards the Dai Hojo (Abbot’s Quarters).


Tenryuji Shoin 9224

The Shoin is the Drawing Hall.


Tenryuji Bonsho 9223

The Shoro (bell tower) at Tenryuji, housing the Bonsho (temple bell).


Tenryuji Mokugyo 9226

A ‘wooden fish’, used like a wood block to maintain rhythm during sutra chanting.
This little fellow is taking a well-deserved rest between ‘beatings’ on a soft cushion.


Tenryuji Shoin Veranda 9229


Tenryuji Meditation Room Calligraphy 9234

The image at left shows the Shoin veranda. The image above is calligraphy by Hirata Seiko in one of the meditation rooms. This is in the same room as the Dharma shown further below. Zen temples are very minimalist as a general rule.


Tenryuji Jisai-in Gate 9249

Shown above is the gate and wall of the Jisai-in
sub-temple... one of many sub-temples at Tenryuji.
(Jisai means compassionate rescue assistance)

Speaking (as we were) of calligraphy, the sign on
the gate: “Please Be Careful: Construction in Progress”
is using some truly magnificent calligraphy. This has to
be the nicest-looking “Excuse our Dust” sign that I
have ever seen. A detail crop is shown at right.
The dark upper sign says “Jisai-in”.
(no linked image on detail crop)


Tenryuji Dragon Cloud 9232

Unryu-zu. The Dragon as a metaphor for the tumultuous sky.
His head is buried in his side and his body blends perfectly into the Cloud.


Tenryuji Meditation Room 9233

The meditation room painting shown above
almost has the character of a Ray Bradbury
1950s science fiction book cover. When you
look closely, it is a muscular warrior with a
Chinese-style jian straight sword flanked
by two rather astonished young girls,
stepping out of the flames. Quite
an image to meditate on.

Beside the painting is a beautiful vase.
I have provided a detail crop to the left.
(no linked image on detail crop)


Tenryuji Meditation Room Dharma 9235

This image of Daruma (Bodhidharma, or Dharma) was painted by Hirata Seiko
(famous Zen master, author, and the Head Priest of Tenryuji until he died in 2008).


Tenryuji Corridor 9236

An open corridor between meditation rooms,
with a view of one of Tenryuji’s famous gardens.


Tenryuji Katomado Windows 9237

Katomado (fire light window or flower top window)
are a standard element in Zen Buddhist architecture.


Tenryuji Tahoden Garden Ryokai 9239

A sakura blooms in a garden next to the Tahoden.
The building behind the sakura is a Ryokai (sacred site).


Tenryuji Kairo 9243

A kairo (covered colonnade) with a raised walkway
which connects the Shoin and Tahoden (Treasure Hall).


Tenryuji Tahoden Emperor Go-Daigo 9240

Emperor Go-Daigo, Emperor Kameyama, and Emperor Go-Saga
are enshrined in the Tahoden. The Tahoden is a modern building (1934)
built in the Kamakura-period style. A wooden image of Go-Daigo looks out.

Emperor Go-Saga and his son, Emperor Kameyama were the ones who converted
the earlier, Heian period temple (Danrin-ji) to an Imperial Villa. Their tombs are located
on the temple grounds. The first official act of the temple in 1345 was a memorial service
for Emperor Go-Daigo (who had been a friend of Ashikaga Takauji until Takauji opposed
the failed Kemmu Restoration started by Emperor Go-Daigo, an attempt to return power
to the Imperial House after the demise of the Kamakura Shogunate). Go-Daigo had
decreed that Ashikaga should be hunted down and executed, but failed in this,
when he had Kusunoki Masashige fight a suicidal battle against Ashikaga
(see this page for information and a statue at the Imperial Palace).

When Go-Daigo died the following year, Ashikaga had Tenryuji built for his memorial.
Emperor Go-Daigo is buried in a tomb on Mt. Yoshino (Nara), where he had
moved his court when Ashikaga’s army entered Kyoto after the battle.


Tenryuji Tahoden Emperor Go-Daigo 9240 detail crop (no linked image)


Tenryuji Tahoden Garden Ryokai 9238

A Ryokai (sacred site) in the garden next to the Tahoden.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Kiyomizudera, Sanjusangendo, and Tenryuji are in the following Galleries (Direct Links) —

Japan: Kyoto Temples 1
Daitokuji, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera

Japan: Kyoto Temples 2
Sanjusangendo, Tenryuji, Toji


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