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The Hōjō (one of Japan's National Treasures)
The sanmon, the main gate of Nanzen-ji

Nanzen-ji (南禅寺 Nanzen-ji?), or Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji, formerly Zenrin-ji (禅林寺 Zenrin-ji?), is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan.[1] 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 Hōjō gardens a Place of Scenic Beauty.[2][3]


Nanzen-ji was founded in the middle Heian period.[4] 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. Tenryū-ji (天龍寺 Tenryū-ji?) is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan (京都五山 Kyōto gozan?) or "five great Zen temples of Kyoto", along with Shōkoku-ji (相国寺 Shōkoku-ji?), Kennin-ji (建仁寺 Kennin-ji?), Tōfuku-ji (東福寺 Tōfuku-ji?), and Manju-ji (満寿寺 Manju-ji?). The head temple presiding over the Gozan in Kyoto is Nanzen-ji.[5] After the completion of Shōkoku-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.[6]

  Kyoto Kamakura
First Rank Tenryū-ji Kenchō-ji
Second Rank Shōkoku-ji Engaku-ji
Third Rank Kennin-ji Jufuku-ji
Fourth Rank Tōfuku-ji Jōchi-ji
Fifth Rank Manju-ji Jōmyō-ji

Landscape poem[edit]

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. Such scrolls emerged as a preeminent form of elite Japanese culture in the last two decades of the fourteenth century, a golden age in the phenomenon now known as Japanese Zen culture.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iwao, Seiichi et al. (2002). Dictionnaire historique du Japon, p. 1976.
  2. ^ "南禅寺境内". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "南禅寺方丈庭園". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869, p. 154.
  5. ^ Baroni, Helen Josephine. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism, p. 116.
  6. ^ Dumoulin, Heinrich. (2005). Zen Buddhism: A History (Vol. II: Japan), pp. 151-153.
  7. ^ Parker, Joseph D. "Zen Buddhist Landscape Arts of Early Muromachi Japan (1336–1573) (1999) pg 1


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°00′40″N 135°47′39″E / 35.01111°N 135.79417°E / 35.01111; 135.79417