Gokurakubō Main Hall
|Location||11 Chūin-chō, Nara, Nara Prefecture|
|Founder||Empress Suiko and Soga no Umako|
Gangō-ji initially held as many as seven halls and pagodas in its precincts, which occupied a wide area within what is now Naramachi, the preserved district of modern Nara city. The original architecture was lost in fires during the 15th through 19th centuries (Muromachi and Edo periods respectively).
The best preserved part of the temple is known as Gangō-ji Gokurakubō (元興寺極楽坊) and belongs to the Shingon-risshū school. This site is a part of a group of temples, shrines and other places in Nara that UNESCO has designated as World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", and holds three national treasures:
- the Gokurakubō (極楽坊), which is one of the few well-preserved structures of the temple,
- the Zen room
- the miniature (5.5 meters tall) five-story pagoda
Most of the destroyed complex ground has been altered and melded with parts of Naramachi over the course of time. Another small part of the temple remains today as the other Gangō-ji, of a Kegon school but with few remainders in terms of architecture.
Gangō-ji in the Man'yōshū
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The Man'yōshū includes a poem attributed to a monk of Gango-ji. This poet laments that, having attained enlightenment, his greater understanding remains unnoticed by others in the streets of Nara. His poem may perhaps bemoan his undervalued condition—and yet, in a modest way, his words transport contemporary readers momentarily back to share his quiet, 8th century perspective:
- A White gem unknown of men --
- Be it so if no one knows!
- Since I myself know its worth
- Although no other --
- Be it so if no one knows!
- -- A monk of the Gango-ji Temple
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- Gangōji Garan Engi, a historical text of the temple
- Nanto Shichi Daiji, Seven Great Temples of Nanto.
- List of National Treasures of Japan (temples)
- List of National Treasures of Japan (sculptures)
- For an explanation of terms concerning Japanese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhist art, and Japanese Buddhist temple architecture, see the Glossary of Japanese Buddhism.
- Pamphlet printed by 元興寺文化財研究所 (Gangō-ji bunkazai kenkyūsho), distributed on site for visitors
- Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai. (1969). The Manyōshū, p. 237.
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