Kangakue (勧学会)

Kangakue was a Buddhist meeting held to conduct teaching, nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), and create Chinese-style poems themed after "Hokekyo" (Lotus Sutra), and was held by the scholars of Kidendo (the study of the histories) in Daigakuryo (Bureau of Education) and the priests of Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, on March 15 (in old lunar calendar) or September 15 (in old lunar calendar) at the western foot of Mt. Hiei or at the temples in and around Heian-kyo (ancient Kyoto), in the mid through latter period of the Heian period.


Originally, Daigakuryo in Japan was a system that was modeled after the Kokushikan (an educational system in China) of the Tang Dynasty, but the Confucian scholars, who were the main managers of Kokushikan, were strongly anti-Buddhist because shaving the hair which were given from the parents and secluding oneself in a temple, and leaving ones parents was against the principle of 'ko' (serving well to one's parents), quoted in "Kokyo" (The book of filial piety). Due to Daigakuryo in Japan, having been introduced directly through this system, emplaced Myogyodo, which placed Confucianism as the main idea and eliminated all traces of Buddhism. But in Japan, even though there were conflicts, Buddhism and Shinto, which were traditional religions, coexisted together, lowering people's views of Buddhism being against Confucianism, even though they had taken in the teaching of Confucianism. Due to this, as a philosophy to rule the nation, the ideas of Confucianism and the ideas of Buddhism (nation protection) coexisted. Further, when it entered the ninth century, the position of Myogyodo was lowered and Kidendo, which handled the official history and Chinese-style poetry (they learned Confucianism, too, but its ratio was not very high), became popular. In addition to this, when Kokufu Bunka (Japan's original national culture) became popular with the abolition of Kento-shi (Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty), a trend to worship Buddhism began to spread mainly in the aristocratic society, strongly interesting the teachers and the students of Daigakuryo to Esoteric Buddhism and the Jodo (Pure Land) sect, a sect which was emerging at the time, once they were away from their classes. In opposition to this, criticism against Buddhism from the Confucianism side of view, which could partly be seen in Daigakuryo in the eighth century, and can still be seen today in historical sources such as "Keikokushu" (A collection of managing the country) became completely eclipsed.

The first period of Kangakue

The meeting which is regarded as the first Kangakue was held at Getsurin-ji Temple (an abolished temple, around present-day Manshu-in Temple) at the western foot of Mt. Hiei, or at Shinrin-ji Temple (abolished temple) which stood nearby. The main participants from the students of Kidendo were YOSHISHIGE no Yasutane, FUJIWARA no Arikuni (藤原在国, later FUJIWARA no Arikuni (藤原有国)), TACHIBANA no Yorihira, and TAKASHINA no Moriyoshi, but the participants from Enryaku-ji Temple are unknown. Later, OE no Mochitoki and others joined, and the Kangakue continued for about 20 years. People can catch a glimpse of how the Kangakue took place through the Chinese-style poems composed by the participants, recorded in "Honcho monzui" (Anthology of waka poems and prose written in classical Chinese). Thorough details of the meeting were written in "Sanpo-ekotoba" (a Japanese literary collection of Buddhist narratives).
According to the same book, the priests of Enryaku-ji Temple came down from the mountain in the evening of the 14th day of the month, a day before the opening day of the Kangakue, to visit the temple in which the Kangakue would take place, and the participants of the common people's side, such as students, gathered at the site in advance, and passed the time by composing poems and reading sutras while waiting for the priests to visit
On the first day of the Kangakue, or the 15th day of the month, they read "Hokekyo" in the morning, made invocation of Mida (reciting of the name of Amida Buddha) in the evening, and made Chinese-style poems, admiring the merit of Buddhism, at night. After that, they spent the night with common people reading poems by Hakurakuten (or Bai Letian, he defended Buddhism, even though he was cultivated with Confucianism) and priests who read "Hokekyo," after which they were dispersed in the morning of the next day, the 16th day of the month.

Also in "Honcho monzui," it is recorded that in 979 through the next year, the participants of Kangakue had planned to construct a Nenbutsu-do Hall (hall to make nenbutsu) as a site to conduct Kangakue. However, the plan was in limbo due to a lack of funds, and since YOSHISHIGE no Yasutane, who was in the position of being leader of the plan, became a priest in 986 and left Kangakue due to its being an event for the common people, the plan itself seemed to have naturally disappeared as a result. In addition, it is recorded clearly in the Chinese-style poem ('Seson Daion') by FUJIWARA no Arikuni and in the preface of the poem by TAKASHINA no Moriyoshi, who were both participants at the first Kangakue which was resumed and also were participants at the very first Kangakue, that the Kangakue was put on hold for 19 years. It is believed that the 19 years started in 984 (year in which "Sanpo-ekotoba" was written) through 992, and ending in 1003 though 1011 (year of the death of FUJIWARA no Arikuni, who have put effort in the revival of Kangakue).

The second period of Kangakue

The year in which the second period of Kangakue had started is not known for sure, but it is believed that it was restarted in the Kanko era (after 1004). In "Honcho monzui," it is recorded that since Getsurin-ji Temple had already been abolished, Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) FUJIWARA no Michinaga offered Hoko-in Temple, a temple established by his father, FUJIWARA no Kaneie, as a site for Kangakue, for participants that were having trouble finding a site to hold Kangakue. It is believed that the members in position as the leaders were FUJIWARA no Arikuni and TAKASHINA no Moriyoshi, who were also the members of the first period of Kangakue. However, since the main members of the participants were the members of the first period of Kangakue and there are almost no records left concerning this period of Kangakue, it is believed that it was suspended again in a short period of time.

The third period of Kangakue

However, during 1028 and 1036, Kangakue was suddenly restarted by Mt. Hiei, even though until then, priests in Mt. Hiei were invited by the students. According to the preface of the poem ("Honcho Zoku Monzui" (Literary Essence of Our Court, Continued)) by SUGAWARA no Sadanori (he was famous for being the 'older brother' in "Sarashina Nikki" (The Sarashina Diary)), who had participated in the Kangakue restarted at Zuigan-ji Temple, the Kangakue was being held by the call of Keimyo, the Tendai-zasu (head priest of the Tendai sect) at that time. Keimyo was a nephew (old brother's son) of FUJIWARA no Arikuni, who was the main person responsible for restarting the second period of Kangakue, and in 1028, he was appointed as the Tendai-zasu and held that post throughout that year. As a result, it is believed that he was related to Kangakue in the past.

Because the Mappo-shiso (the "end of the world" belief) became popular in this period of time, Kangakue was held for a comparatively long period, and some events relating to Kangakue can be confirmed, intermittently. FUJIWARA no Tsunemichi, who became a Dazai gon no sochi (Provisional Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices) in 1046, along with Kien (younger brother of SUGAWARA no Sadanori), who was a priest of Anraku-ji Temple, planned and started Niki (second) Kangakue at Anraku-ji Temple. In records, Tsunemichi can't be recognized as a participant of the Kangakue, but there is a possibility that he was a participant. Further in a Kangakue held on April 23, 1071 at Urin-in Temple, a record was compiled as "Kangakue no ki." In addition, during this Kangakue, it is said that a "Hokekyo" for the Kangakue was prepared through a proposal by FUJIWARA no Narisue ("Choya Gunsai" (Classified Records of Court and Country)). On April 27, 1080, a Kangakue was held in Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple, making the temple the site of Kangakue in the future, but the rule for the opening day of Kangakue, which was decided to be the 15th day of March or September, was broken for the first time, and the opening day of Kangakue continued to be delayed. After that, there are records remaining which state that Kangakue were held at Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple in 1088, 1111, 1112, 1116, and 1117 (since there are no records of any suspension occurring during the years which were not recorded as having held Kangakue, it is believed that Kangakue continued to be held during those years as well). However, it can't be denied that the content of Kangakue was gradually formalized, and even in the Kangakue held in 1071, which is said to be a Kangakue in which old customs were revived, an event was only held for half a day, from 2 p.m. through 10 p.m., even though originally, it should be held for three days (actually, two days) (it is believed that as the formalization advanced, the period and content of Kangakue was reduced, too). Also, the ratio of participants who experienced Kangakue in the past, who were called Sendatsu, increased, and those people came to hold positions such as Shikibu no taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Ceremonial), Daigaku no kami (Director of the Bureau of Education), and Monjo hakase (professor of literature), which were positions that were 'high above the sky' if seen from students, even though those Sendatsu were students back then. Further, since the student participants, who were called Ketsugakusei (結学生), decreased, it became difficult to pass power between generations. Before long, one day in April 1122, the last Kangakue on record was held in Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple, and no records of Kangakue have been found since then.


Kangakue was an event held mainly by people of the Kidendo and Tendai sect (Enryaku-ji Temple). During the latter period of the Heian period, it was written in "Senju-hiki" (literally, collection of secret records) by FUJIWARA no Tamefusa that a similar movement rose among the students of Myogyodo, which once was the center of Confucian education, and a Buddhist meeting called Chogo-e (an Expanding Lecture) was held at Kiyomizu-dera Temple on the same day with Kangakue. However, details of that meeting are not known for sure.

In addition, in and after the Kamakura period, ceremonies called Kangakue and Kangakuko, in which teaching of sutras were held by a group of priests, began to be held in powerful temples.

(As an example, a ceremony held by Jien, the Tendai-zasu at that time, of Enryaku-ji Temple in 1195 is particularly famous.)
(Other than that, similar events were held in Kongobu-ji Temple, Ninna-ji Temple, To-ji Temple, Daigo-ji Temple, Horyu-ji Temple, and so on.)
However in these events, participants from the common people can't be seen, which is thought to show that it had little or no relationship with the Kangakue in the Heian period.