Kiyomizu-dera Travel Guide

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Nanzen-ji, or Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji, formerly Zenrin-ji, is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Emperor Kameyama established it in 1291 on the site of his previous detached palace. It is also the headquarters of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen. Zenkei Shibayama, who provided a popular commentary on the Mumonkan, was an abbot of the monastery. The precincts of Nanzen-ji are a nationally designated Historic Site and the Hojo gardens a Place of Scenic Beauty.

Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan

Nanzen-ji was founded in the middle Heian period. Nanzen-ji is not itself considered one of the "five great Zen temples of Kyoto"; however, it does play an important role in the "Five Mountain System" which was modified from Chinese roots. Tenryu-ji is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or "five great Zen temples of Kyoto", along with Shokoku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji, and Manju-ji.

Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan

The head temple presiding over the Gozan in Kyoto is Nanzen-ji. After the completion of Shokoku-ji by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1386, a new ranking system was created with Nanzen-ji at the top and in a class of its own. Nanzen-ji had the title of "First Temple of The Land" and played a supervising role.

Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan

In the year 1410 a Zen Buddhist monk from Nanzen-ji, a large temple complex in the Japanese capital of Kyoto, wrote out a landscape poem and had a painting done of the scene described by the poem. Then, following the prevailing custom of his day, he gathered responses to the images by asking prominent fellow monks and government officials to inscribe it, thereby creating a shigajiku poem and painting scroll.

Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan

Nanzenji Temple, whose spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto's forested Higashiyama mountains, is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple subtemples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger.

Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan

The history of Nanzenji dates back to the mid 13th century, when the Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa at the temple's present location and later converted it into a Zen temple. After its founding, Nanzenji grew steadily, but its buildings were all destroyed during the civil wars of the late Muromachi Period (1333-1573). The oldest of the current buildings were built after that period.

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