From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Shōshinden is a Momoyama period building with a replica of the chambers where retired Emperor Go-Uda conducted cloistered rule.

Daikaku-ji (大覚寺 Daikaku-ji?) is a Shingon Buddhist temple in Ukyō-ku, a western ward in the city of Kyoto, Japan. The main images are of the Five Wisdom Kings, centered on Fudō. It was a villa of Emperor Saga (785-842), and later, retired Emperor Go-Uda conducted his cloistered rule from here. A school of ikebana, the Saga Goryū, maintains its headquarters in the temple. The artificial lake of the temple, Osawa pond, is one of the oldest Japanese garden ponds to survive from the Heian Period.[1]


Daikaku-ji was founded in the early Heian period.[2] It was originally built as villa for the retirement of the Emperor Saga.[3]

According to tradition, when Japan suffered a serious epidemic, the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, suggested that the Emperor Saga personally copy an important Buddhist religious document called the Heart Sutra (Hanna Shingyo). The emperor made a handwritten copy, and the epidemic is said to have ended. The handwritten sutra is kept at the temple, and is displayed to the public once every sixty years, the next time being in 2018. Pilgrims still come to the temple to make copies of the sutra, which are kept in the temple with the original.[4]

The temple was established in 876, thirty-four years after the death of Emperor Saga, by his first daughter, Empress Masako, who gave it its name. It was a monzeki temple, that is, by tradition imperial princes were appointed abbot of the temple.

Over the years, it was the retirement home for several emperors. The original building was destroyed, but during the Edo Period, Emperor Mizunoo II replaced it with a Momoyama Period temple building from the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The temple was placed in a graveled courtyard next to the pond. The sliding walls inside are decorated with paintings by artists of the Kano School of the Momoyama Period. Other temple buildings include the Founders Hall (also moved from the Kyoto Imperial Palace) and the Hondo, or main hall.[5]

The Pond and Garden[edit]

The Osawa pond, with Daikaku temple on the far side

The Osawa Pond is older than the temple itself. It is an artificial lake of 2.4 hectares that was created by Emperor Saga, either during his reign (809-823) or between his retirement from power and his death in 842. It was an imperial garden of the style known as chisen-shuyu: a garden meant to be seen from a boat, similar to the Imperial Chinese garden of the period. The lake was created by damming a stream which came from the Nakoso waterfall. At the north end of the pond are two islands, one large and one small - the small island being known as Chrysanthmum Island. Between the two islands are several small rocky islets, meant to resemble Chinese junks at anchor. On a hillside north of the lake is what appears to be a dry cascade (karedaki), a kind of Japanese rock garden or zen garden, where a real waterfall is suggested by a composition of stones.

The garden was celebrated in the poetry of the period. A poem by Ki no Tomonori in an anthology from the period, the Kokinshū, described the Kiku-shima, or island of chrysanthemums, found in the Osawa pond.

I had thought that here
only one chrysanthemum can grow.
Who therefore has planted
the other in the depths
of the pond of Osawa?

Another poem of the Heian period, in the Hyakunin isshu, described a cascade of rocks, which simulated a waterfall, in the same garden:

The cascade long ago
ceased to roar,
But we continue to hear
The murmur
of its name.[6]

The lake was created as a particularly good place for viewing the rising of the moon from boats. It also became, and remains, a popular place for viewing the cherry trees in bloom around the lake. A moon-viewing party is held in the garden every autumn for three days, around the date of the harvest moon; it features costumed dancers and musicians and dragon boats in the style of the Heian Period. Today the lake is a popular park for the residents of Kyoto. In addition to the garden around the lake, there is a large courtyard garden between the buildings of the temple. [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Young and Young, The Art of the Japanese Garden, pg. 72
  2. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869, p. 112.
  3. ^ Young and Young, pg. 72
  4. ^ Young and Young, pg. 72
  5. ^ Young and Young, pg. 72-73
  6. ^ Nitschke, Le Jardin Japonais, pg. 42. Excerpts translated from French by DR Siefkin.
  7. ^ Young and Young, pg. 72-73.


  • David and Michiko Young, (2005) The Art of the Japanese Garden, Tuttle publishers, Singapore, (ISBN 978-0-8048-3598-5)
  • Nitschke, Gunter, (1999) Le Jardin japonais - Angle droit et forme naturelle, Taschen publishers, Paris (translated from German into French by Wolf Fruhtrunk), (ISBN 978-3-8228-3034-5)
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869. Kyoto: The Ponsonby Memorial Society.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°01′42″N 135°40′40″E / 35.028314°N 135.677802°E / 35.028314; 135.677802