Gozan (a term relating to Zen temples) (五山)

Gozan indicates the status of a Zenrin (temple of the Zen sect) in China and Japan that is ranked above jissatsu (for the ten important temples of the Rinzai sect) and shozan (for ordinary Zen temples).

The origin of gozan

The term is said to have originated from the fact that Neiso of the Southern Sung Dynasty protected the five temples of Keizan, Unin, Tendo, Joji, and Ikuo as "gozan" (literally, five mountains), in emulation of India's five Shoja and ten pagodas (The Five Shoja of India). In the latter half of the Kamakura Period temples with gozan status appeared in Japan as well, corresponding to an increase in the number of believers of Zen principles. It is said that the oldest temple with this status was Jochi-ji Temple, after Regent Sadatoki HOJO of the Kamakura bakufu in 1299 proclaimed it as "gozan."

Kamakura Period

The details of the gozan system of the Kamakura bakufu are not known clearly, but it is believed that the four temples of Kencho-ji Temple, Enkaku-ji Temple and Jufuku-ji Temple in Kamakura and Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto were included among the "gozan" temples. Similarly, "gozan" temples were specified during the Kemmu Restoration by Emperor Godaigo as well, and included Nanzen-ji Temple, Daitoku-ji Temple, Tofuku-ji Temple and Kennin-ji Temple, with the first two temples placed at the head of them.

Muromachi Period

Later, Takauji ASHIKAGA, who established the Muromachi bakufu, built Tenryu-ji Temple and wanted the temple to be added to the gozan temples. For this, the Northern Court (in Japan) issued an inzen (decree from the retired Emperor) in 1341 to entrust Takauji with the selection of gozan temples. Then in the same year Takauji selected Nanzen-ji Temple and Kencho-ji Temple for the first grade gozan, Enkaku-ji Temple and Tenryu-ji Temple for the second grade gozan, Jufuku-ji Temple (in Kamakura) for the third grade gozan, Kennin-ji Temple (in Kyoto) for the fourth grade gozan, Tofuku-ji Temple (in Kyoto) for the fifth grade gozan, and Jochi-ji Temple (in Kamakura) for the quasi-gozan (ranked lower than the temples described above). After this, it became customary that the right to specify gozan temples and to appoint or dismiss the chief priest of such temples resided with the seii taishogun (literally "great general who is to subdue the barbarians") of the Ashikaga clan. Later in 1358, the second shogun Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA revised the above specification, and raised the grade of Jochi-ji Temple to that of fifth gozan. In addition, he added Jomyo-ji Temple in Kamakura and Manju-ji Temple in Kyoto to the fifth grade gozan, increasing the number of fifth grade gozan temples to four, resulting in five temples in both Kyoto and Kamamura being set as gozan temples. After that, Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the third shogun, added Rinsen-ji Temple to the gozan temples at the request of Shogunal Deputy Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA between 1377 and 1379. However, the gozan status of Rinsen-ji Temple was removed when Yoriyuki lost his governmental position due to the Koryaku Coup. However, after building Shokoku-ji Temple as his family temple, Yoshimitsu reformed the gozan system drastically on July 10 (in the old calendar) 1386 taking into account the opinions of Shushin GIDO, Chushin ZEKKAI and others in the following way: "A status above gozan" should be given to Nanzen-ji Temple, placing the temple at the highest rank of all Zen temples, and in its place Sokoku-ji Temple should be included among the gozan temples, while furthermore, the gozan status was divided into Kyoto gozan and Kamakura gozan. The temples with these gozan statuses have remained fixed since then.