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World Heritage / Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Criteria: (ii) (iii) (iv) (vi) | Date of Inscription: 1998 | Location: Nara Prefecture | Justification for Inscription

UNESCO

Things to see

Kofukuji Temple

To-kondo and Goju-no-to
To-kondo and Goju-no-to
Hokuendo (North Hall)
Hokuendo (North Hall)
Nanendo (South Hall)
Nanendo (South Hall)
Goju-no-to (Five-Storied Pagoda)
Goju-no-to (Five-Storied Pagoda)
Kofukuji Temple is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism, one of the religion's main sects in the Heijokyo era. After it originated as Yamashina Temple, established by the Fujiwara family of Kyoto in 669AD, it was moved to Fujiwarakyo by Fujiwarano Fuhito in 672AD. In the year 710AD it moved again to Nara Heijokyo and was renamed Kofukuji Temple. From the Nara period to the Middle Ages, Kofukuji Temple enjoyed a great deal of prosperity due to being the guardian temple of the powerful Fujiwara family and thus enjoying their patronage. At the same time the temple strengthened its relationship with Kasuga Taisha Shrine, the Fujiwara's guardian shrine following the Buddhism & Shinto joint harmonization concept.
In 1180 Kofukuji Temple was destroyed in the attacks on the city by Tairano Shigehira and the current buildings were reconstructed in the centuries since. During the Meiji period Kofukuji Temple was abandoned for a time under the policy of the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism but in 1881 reconstruction of the temple was approved. In 1897, the Historical Temples and Shrines Protection Law (since updated to be renamed the Cultural Properties Protection Law) was enacted. Following on from this legal recognition, periods of renovation and rearrangement of the various structures have been implemented with the project to rebuild the Chu-kondo still in full swing.
To-kondo (To-kondo Hall)
In 726AD, the Emperor Shomu constructed the To-kondo to pray for the recovery of his ailing aunt. The present building is a 1415 reconstruction but has Tenpyo style features and is said to embody the spirit and mood of the Nara period. The hall contains the images of Yakushisannonzo, Shitennozo, and other statues.
Hokuendo (North Hall)
This beautiful octagonal hall was built in 721AD after the construction was ordered by the then Emperors Genmei and Gensho to be ready for the first memorial day service for Fujiwarano Fuhito, the founder of Kofukuji Temple. In 1180 it was burned down in the attack headed by Tairano Shigehira and the current building was rebuilt in 1210.
Nanendo (South Hall)
Constructed by Fujiwarano Fuyutsugu in 813AD, the current Nan-endo building is a 1789 reconstruction and like the Hokuendo is also octagonal in shape. With Kofukuji Temple initially serving as a guardian temple of the Fujiwara family, as Fuyutsugu enhanced his authority the Nan-endo was established and took on more and more powers in the running of Kofukuji Temple.
Goju-no-to (Five-Storied Pagoda)
Kofukuji Temple's Goju-no-to is about 50m in height and is Japan's second tallest wooden tower. (The tallest being Toji Temple's Goju-no-to in Kyoto.) In 730AD the pagoda was first constructed by the Empress Komyo, daughter of the founder of the temple and over the years was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The current structure was completed in 1426. Inside the pagoda, each layer contains a small crystal tower and a Kujokodarani sutra with the first story also containing four statues of Buddha - one in each of the four corners.
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