Koryu-ji Temple (広隆寺)

Koryu-ji Temple, located in the Uzumasa area of Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City, is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Omuro branch of the Shingon Sect.
Its honorific mountain prefix is 'Hachiokasan.'
The temple is also known by the names Hachioka-dera, Hoko-ji, Hatanokimi-dera and Uzumasa-dera. It served as the ujidera (temple devoted to a clan's guardian deity) of the Hata clan of naturalized citizens and is the oldest temple in Kyoto, originating since before the relocation of the capital city to Heiankyo. The temple is known for its statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya sitting contemplatively in the half-lotus position, a National Treasure, and is one of the seven major temples constructed by Prince Shotoku.

The Ushi-matsuri (Ox Festival) held every year on October 12 is known as one of Kyoto's three main strange festivals.

Origin and History
Koryu-ji Temple is located in Uzumasa, which is famous for Kyoto Uzumasa Eigamura (Toei Movie Land), but it is unknown whether it has always stood on this site since the time of its founding and there is a likely theory that it was built somewhere else during the first half of the 7th century and moved to its current location around the time of the relocation of the capital to Heiankyo. At the time of its founding, the temple was dedicated to the bodhisattva Maitreya but became dedicated to Bhaisajyaguru around the time of the relocation of the capital to Heiankyo and became a place of devotion to Bhaisajyaguru and Prince Shotoku. The principal image housed within Jogu-oin, which is present Koryu-ji Temple's main hall, is a statue of Prince Shotoku.

There are references to the founding of Koryu-ji Temple in ancient texts such as "Nihon Shoki" and it has been confirmed by excavations that the temple dates from the 7th century, but the ancient records were lost to fire in the year 818 and the temple's early history cannot be determined for sure.

According to "Nihon Shoki," in the year 603, after Prince Shotoku asked his servants 'I have this sacred Buddhist statue, but who is here to worship it?' naturalized citizen HATA no Kawakatsu of a powerful local family received the statue and constructed 'Hoko-ji Temple.'
On the other hand, "Koryu-ji Engi" (The Origin of Koryu-ji Temple) written in 838 and the late 9th century "Koryu-ji Shizai-Kotai Jitsurokucho" (Record of the Replacement of Materials of Koryu-ji Temple) state that the temple was constructed in 622 as a memorial to Prince Shotoku who passed away in the same year. There is a discrepancy of almost 20 years between the accounts of the temple's founding as described in "Nihon Shoki" and "Koryu-ji Engi." One explanation for this is that the temple's construction was initiated in 603 and completed in 622 and another explanation states that Hoko-ji Temple built in 603 and Koryu-ji Temple built in 622 were initially two separate temples that later merged.

The location of Hoko-ji Temple's founding is not known for sure but archaeological excavation of the first 7th century artifacts in the remains of Kitano Temple in Kitano, Kita Ward, Kyoto City have given rise to a likely theory that it was moved to its current location (or merged with another temple) in Uzumasa at the same time as the relocation of the capital to Heiankyo.

Originating from the Silla Kingdom of ancient Korea, the Hata clan were naturalized citizens based in Kado-no-gori (equivalent to the modern area of Nishikyo Ward and the southern part of Ukyo Ward in Kyoto City) and possessed skills such as sericulture, weaving, sake brewing and river management. Konoshimanimasu-Amaterumimusubi-jinja Shrine (Kaiko-no-yashiro) near Koryu-ji Temple and Umenomiya-taisha Shrine in Umezu, Ukyo Ward and Matsuno-taisha Shrine in Arashiyama, Nishikyo Ward (both devoted to the deity of sake brewing) are also said to be connected to the Hata clan.

"Nihon Shoki" states that in the year 623 (622 according to other sources), Silla Kingdom and Imna Confederacy messengers came to Japan where they enshrined Buddhist statues in Kadonohata-dera Temple and there is a theory that these correspond to the two wooden statues of the Bodhisattva Maitreya sitting in the half-lotus position which remain in Koryu-ji Temple. The principal image of Koryu-ji Temple was changed to Bhaisajyaguru in the year 797, directly following the relocation of the capital to Heiankyo.

Starting with the fire in the year 818, the temple has been devastated by fire on numerous occasions and none of the original buildings from the time of the temple's founding now remain. In the year 836, Koryu-ji Temple chief priest Dosho (disciple of Kukai) put great efforts into the restoration of the fire-ravaged statue and buildings and he became known as the Restoration Patriarch. Following this, the temple was completely destroyed by fire in 1150 but was rebuilt in a relatively short period of time and a dedication ceremony was held for all of the halls in 1165. It is said that the surviving Ko-do (lecture hall) (Important Cultural Property) underwent extensive modification following the medieval period, however, can be considered the same structure completed in 1665.

Monastery

Romon Gate: The temple's main entrance. Said to have been constructed in 1702.

Ko-do (lecture hall) (Important Cultural Property): Almost all original external elements are believed to have been lost through rebuilding in 1165, modifications between 1558 and 1570 and repairs undergone in modern times, but the interior ceiling and frame retain a Heian period legacy. Enshrined within is a sitting statue of principal image Amida Nyorai (National Treasure) flanked by a sitting statue of Ksitigarbha (Important Cultural Property) on the right and a sitting statue of Akasagarbha on the left.

Jogu-oin: Koryu-ji Temple's main hall. A palatial style building with a cypress bark hip-and-gable roof, within which is a miniature shrine that houses the principal image standing statue of Prince Shotoku. This statue engraved with the year 1120 depicts Prince Shotoku aged 33 when he granted the statue HATA no Kawakatsu and is wearing underwear over which real clothing is worn.

Keikyu-in Temple main hall (National Treasure): Stands on a site surrounded by a wall in the west of the main precinct. The hall enshrines a statue of Prince Shotoku and, like the Yumedono of Horyu-ji Temple, is an octagonal circular hall but architecturally it is more casual with a purely Japanese style and a cypress bark roof. It is not ordinarily open to the public but access is allowed to the exterior on Sundays and public holidays in April, May, October and November. It is a Kamakura period building but the exact date of its construction is unknown.

Wooden Statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya Sitting Contemplatively in the Half-lotus Position

Of the two wooden statues of the bodhisattva Maitreya sitting contemplatively in the half-lotus position at Koryu-ji Temple, the one commonly known as 'Crowned Maitreya' is housed within the center of the Reiho-den. It is considered to be one of the most famous of all the Buddhist statues in Japan. German philosopher Karl Jaspers' enthusiastic praise of the statue is well known.

Style and Place of Production

The statue stands at approximately 123 centimeters in height, is made from red pine wood with Ichiboku-zukuri (wooden figure carved of one tree) and shows Maitreya deep in thought with the right hand gently touching the cheek. It is believed to have been created during the 7th century.

The style is very similar to that of the gilt bronze statue of the bodhisattva Maitreya sitting contemplatively in the half-lotus position at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. There are no other surviving Korean wooden Buddhist statues of the same style from the same era but the Koryu-ji Temple statue was originally covered in gold leaf and it is clear from the few traces that remain on the abdomen that would have resembled a gilt bronze Buddhist statue when it was crafted.

Its style has led to the theory that it made its way to Japan from the Korean Peninsula but there are also those who propose that it was crafted in Japan and the debate has not yet been resolved.

In 1948, soon after World War II, Jiro KOHARA took a sample from the statue's hollow interior and used microphotography to determine that it was made of red pine wood. Japan's Asuka period wooden Buddhas and giraku masks were almost without exception made from the wood of Japan's indigenous camphor tree and the fact that the Koryu-ji Temple statue is the only example in Japan of a piece made from red pine became the basis of the theory that it came from the Korean Peninsula. However, in 1968 when the statue was being photographed for 'Maitreya' - part 4 of the Mainichi Newspaper's series entitled "Fascinating Buddhist Statues," it was confirmed the back-board of the uchiguri (a cavity cut into a statue to decrease weight and prevent cracking due to drying out) was made of camphor wood and also that the robes of the back had been carved from the same wood.
(This is because statue was found to have been damaged during the Meiji period and camphor wood was used to repair the missing portion.)
Additionally, the theory that the statue was crafted in Japan comes from the fact that red pine also grows wild in Japan.

The theory that the statue came from the Korean Peninsula derives from the conviction that it is either the Buddhist statue received from Prince Shotoku in the year 603 or the Buddhist statue that arrived from the Silla Kingdom in 623 referred to in "Nihon Shoki."

Incident

On August 18, 1960, a 20-year-old student of Kyoto University touched the statue of Maitreya and broke its ring finger of the right hand.
It is often said of his motive that 'the statue was so beautiful that he just had to touch it' but in coverage that immediately followed the incident he said words to the effect of, 'When I actually saw it, I thought 'is this it?'
It was a disappointment. I heard that it was covered in gold leaf but there was only the grain of the wood and it was covered in dust.
There weren't any guards so I just gave it a quick touch but I still can't explain what going through my head at the time.'
The Kyoto District Public Prosecutors Office investigated the student on suspicion of violating the preservation of Cultural Properties but indictment was suspended. The broken finger was restored using the collected fragments and it is now impossible to tell with the naked eye where the finger was damaged.

The statue is frequently referred to as 'The number one National Treasure' but it is simply the case that the National Treasure designation number assigned by the Minister of Education was 'Sculpture 1' and there were many other items that were also designated National Treasures on June 9, 1951.

Cultural Properties
National Treasures

Wooden statue of the bodhisattva Maitreya sitting contemplatively in the half-lotus position (commonly called 'Crowned Maitreya'): Described above

Wooden statue of the bodhisattva Maitreya sitting in the half-lotus position (commonly called 'Crying Maitreya'): Housed within Reiho-den. This statue is in the same half-lotus pose as 'Crowned Maitreya' but slightly smaller. One theory claims it to have been crafted during the late 7th/early 8th century in Japan as it is made from the wood of the camphor trees that are not found on the Korean Peninsula, however, there is another theory. It is known as 'Crying Maitreya' due to its melancholy expression and right hand touching the cheek that makes it look as if it is crying.

Wooden sitting statue of Amida Nyorai: The principal image of the Ko-do (lecture hall)
The statue is 2.6 meters tall. It was crafted in the year 840.

Wooden standing statue of Amoghapasa: Was originally enshrined in the lecture hall but is now housed in Reiho-den. Made during the end of the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period (late 8th to early 9th century).

Wooden standing statue of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara: Was originally enshrined in the lecture hall but is now housed in Reiho-den. Made in the early Heian period (9th century).

Wooden standing statue of the twelve divine generals of Bhaisajyaguru: Housed in Reiho-den now. Made in 1064 by Buddhist statue maker Chosei.

Koryu-ji Engi Shizaicho (Notes of Materials for Koryu-ji Temple)

Koryu-ji Shizai-Kotai Jitsurokucho (Record of the Replacement of Materials of Koryu-ji Temple)

Keikyu-in Temple main hall

Important Cultural Properties
Color on silk image of three thousands Buddhas
Color on silk image of the twelve celestials
Color on silk image of Juntei Butsumo
Color on paper picture scroll of Noue Hoshi
Wooden sitting statue of the bodhisattva Akasagarbha (located in the lecture hall)
Wooden sitting statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (located in the lecture hall)
Wooden standing statue of Bhaisajyaguru
Molded sitting statue of Maitreya
Wooden sitting statue of Mahavairocana (95.5 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural property in 1917)
Wooden sitting statue of Mahavairocana (74.5 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural property in 1927)
Wooden standing statue of Amida Nyorai
Wooden sitting statue of the bodhisattva Manjusri with five hair knots
Wooden standing statue of Aryavalokitesvara
Wooden sitting statue of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara
Wooden statue of the Cintamari-cakra sitting in the half-lotus position
Wooden standing statue of the bodhisattvas Suryaprabha and Candraprabha
Wooden standing statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha
Wooden standing statue of a bodhisattva
Wooden sitting statue of Acalanatha
Wooden standing statue of Vaisravana
Wooden standing statue of Dhrtarastra, Virupaksa and Virudhaka
Wooden standing statue of Vaisravana
Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi (184.5 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1917)
Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi (168.0 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1917)
Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi (164.6 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1902)
Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi (142.2 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1917) (deposited at Tokyo National Museum)
Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi (106.8 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1938)
Wooden statue of the Prince Shotoku sitting in the half-lotus position
Wooden standing statue of Zao Gongen (100.4 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1917)
Wooden standing statue of Zao Gongen (96.4 centimeter tall, designated an Important Cultural Property in 1917)
Wooden idol (thought to be a statue of HATA no Kawakatsu)
Wooden sitting statue of a female deity (thought to be a statue of HATA no Kawakatsu's wife)
Iron bell

Access

In front of Uzumasa-koryuji Station on the Arashiyama Main Line of the Keifuku Electric Railroad