27th October, 2006 - Our final temple for the day.... Chion-in... and I have to say that we'd most probably hit our "historic temple" limit. Don't get me wrong - it was a great day, but we'd been walking for long while now... and guess what... more steps.
Late in the Heian period, a monk by the name of Hōnen (see Pure Land Buddhism), who had been a student in the Tendai school of Mt Hiei (Hiei-zan), rejected the esoteric teaching in preference to the nembutsu movement that allowed for the immediate salvation of the people – indeed his changing views were heretical to the Tendai teachings. He taught the Pure Land (Jodo Shu) Buddhism at the site of Chion-in which would later become the head temple of the sect.
The temple is famous, amongst other things, for the largest sanmon in Japan of it's type. The upper level of which holds sacred statues and paintings - and it's possible to climb up (for an entrance fee). But be warned... the stairs leading up to the top platform are steep... and I mean steep. Like about 60degrees steep. There's not much to hold on to either - so if you've got bags etc, you need to be very careful. The other thing is that you need to leave your shoes at ground level.
Now you're not supposed to take cameras.... and being sensitive to such things I didn't.... which is a shame as the views are great, and the top floor is amazing. So how... I hear you ask... did I take these photos?... Well, the honest truth is that these photos are from the poster out the front of the sanmon. Hmmm - hope i'm not infringing copyright... but the posters are on full public display. It was definitely worth the admission fee... for the view inside as well as outside. It's not easy to get a feel for just how tall the sanmon is. It's massive.
It's funny that before I came here, I'd never really even wondered what it was that they kept in these giant gates. It was a very pleasant surprise.
The main temple are up a very long flight of stairs... after the steep climb up to the top of the sanmon, this wasn't so intimidating as just tiring. Now back to some good ol' history....
With the continued antagonism between the monks from the famous Enryaku-ji on Hiei-zan and Chion-in, the temple was put to the torch in 1227, with the remains of Hōnen having to be secreted out of the temple just in time (as he was buried above the Hondo).
The temple was re-built in 1234, with sponsorship from the Imperial family. The hall was once again destroyed in 1633 – this time re-built by Tokugawa Iemitsu. Patronage for the temple has been strong throughout its long history. The efforts of the monk Hōnen were extended by Shinran, whose teachings with respect to the nembutsu would found the Jōdo Shinshu (see True Pure Land Buddhism) sect.
As you can see from this photo (below) - the afternoon was coming to a close - and in fact the temple was closing to the public as well. Time to take one last photo and for us to be on our way. T-chan was very tired by now and looking forward to a sit down. I wasn't pregnant, and I was tired! She suffered a lot during this trip... and she's one in a million.
Time for a change of scene....