Konpon Chudo (根本中堂)

Konpon Chudo is the largest central hall of Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple.

Its origin lies in a thatched hut named Ichijo Shikanin built by Denkyo Daishi Saicho in 788. The principal image is a statue of Bhaisajyaguru (usually withheld from public view) that was carved by Saicho who is said to have prayed three times after every stroke of his blade. The holy flame in front of the statue lit by Saicho is known as the Eternal Light as has burned continuously for 1200 years without even once being extinguished. Of the three halls (Yakushido, Monjudo, Kyodo) built by Saicho, the central Yakushido hall became known as Chudo (lit. central hall) and this name remained after the three halls were combined into a single temple complex. As the center of Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple, it was called Konpon Chudo (lit. root temple in the center) and it is the central building of the Todo (east pagoda) area of Mt. Hiei.

In 1443, when the former Southern Dynasty's Hino clan, among others with the aim of restoring the Southern Dynasty, sparked the Kinketsu Coup by stealing part of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan from the Imperial palace in Kyoto, the conspirators held up in Konpon Chudo and were besieged by the Shogunate army and warrior monks after the imperial order was given to track them down and kill them.

Following its destruction by fire during Nobunaga ODA's raid, the current Konpon Chudo was rebuilt over a period of 8 years from 1634 (completed in 1641) by order of the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu TOKUGAWA acting on the counsel of Jigen Daishi Tenkai. The entire structure of Konpon Chudo is constructed of keyaki (Zelkova) wood. The purlins measure 37.57 meters, the crossbeam measures 23.63 meters, the height of the eaves is approximately 9.78 meters, the ridge measures 24.46 meters and the entire building is topped by a single storey in Irimoya-zukuri (hip-and-gable roof). The southern side is in the shinden-zukuri style (architecture representative of a nobleman's residence in the Heian period) and forms the inner courtyard in which there are bamboo racks placed to appeal to the gods of Japan. The hall is divided into an outer chamber, central chamber and inner chamber, of which the inner chamber housing the principal image is also known as 'Shugyo-no-tanima' (lit. Valley of Discipline) due to its stone paved floor that lies 3 meters lower than the outer and central chambers, and its role as the place in which monks chant sutras and pray. The building has a unique structure in that the height of the principal image and the Eternal Light in the inner chamber are at the same height of the visitors in the central chamber and it is known as Tendai-zukuri or Chudo-zukuri, which is a characteristic of Tendai Buddhist temples. The ceiling of the central chamber is adorned with a painting named 'Hyakka-no-zu' (hundreds of flowers) in which 200 flowers have been painted in rich colors. There are 76 pillars known as the 'Daimyo bashira' (pillars of Daimyo) as they were donated by the Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) of each province. In the center of the central chamber is a throne on which a tablet with the word 'Denkyo' (transmitting the teaching of Buddhism) written by Emperor Showa is displayed. The building was designated a National Treasure on March 31, 1953.