Kofukuji Temple is located in the central Nara City of the Nara Prefecture in Kansai Region. Kofukuji Temple, also known as Nan-En-Do, is the temple #9 in the Saikoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage of Western Japan. Kofukuji Temple was known as one of the "Four Great Temples" of Nara period and one of the "Seven Great Temples" of the Heian Period.
Kofukuji Temple is located at the entrance of the Nara Park area if you are coming from the JR Nara Station. It is less than fifteen minute walk from the JR Nara Station, located across from a pond located at the entrance of the Nara Park.
Kofukuji Temple Seals
The origins of Kofukuji Temple date to the eight year of the Emperor Tenji (669 AD). The wife of statesman Fujiwara-no-Kamatari (one of the founders of the Fujiwara family, which played an important role in the history of Japan from eighty to the twelfth century AD), by the name of Kagami-no-Okimi established a temple at the family estate in Yamashina Suehara (modern day Kyoto prefecture) to pray for the recovery of Kamatari's illness. This early Fujiwara tutelary temple was first known as Yamashina-dera. In the temple Kagami-no-Okimi enshrined images of Shaka Triad (Sakayamuni, the historical Buddha, along with two attendants), which had originally been commissioned at the behest of Katamari upon his defeat of the Soga clan in 645. A few years later the temple was moved to Umayasaka in Nara Prefecture, and named Umayasaka-dera.
With the establishment of the capital at Nara in 710, Yamashina-dera was the first temple to be relocated, and was moved to it's present location in a central block of the Nara city. The temple, renamed Kofukuji, grew rapidly in size and wealth under the patronage of successive emperors and empresses, and members of the powerful Fujiwara clan. But towards the middle of the twelfth century the political power of the Fujiwara began to decline, the Kofukuji Temple lacking the protection of it's former patrons, suffered the effects of the serious political and social upheaval which followed. Towards the end of the Fujiwara period and in the early part of the Kamakura Shoguns period, the Nara temples, including Kofukuji Temple supported by armed forces of their resident priests and followers exerted considerable political influence but they never again attained the cultural and spiritual leadership which they enjoyed during the Nara and early Heian periods.
Kofukuji is one of the head temples of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism. The Hosso sect is also known as the Yuishiki sect. Hosso sect teachings are similar to the Kegon sect and they both predate the popular sects of present day Japanese Buddhism. The Hosso sect was first brought to China from India by the Tang Dynasty monk by the name of Hsuan Tsang.
Kannon Bosatsu Statue (attributed)
Hsuan Tsang, who wrote the popular Journal entitled "Travels to the West", transmitted the Hosso teachings, as found in the Yuishiki-ron ("Treatise on Mind Only"), to his disciple Jion Daishi, who is considered as the founder of the Hosso School in China. These doctrins were later brought over to Japan and introduced at the Kofukuji Temple by the Monk Genboh (746 AD) who studied in China from 716-735.
One of the best structures in the temple predincts is the five storied Pagoda, which can be seen from around the Nara Park was constructed by Empress Komyoh in 730. The current construction is a restoration completed in 1426 and is the second tallest pagoda in Japan measuring about 150 feet. Inside the structure on the first level, enshrined around the central pillar are various Buddhist Deities (Yakushi Triad, Shaka Triad, Amida Triad and Miroku Triad).
Here is a video of this beautiful Kofukuji Temple: