Zojishi (Officials in Charge of Building Temples) (造寺司)

Zojishi was an extra statutory office established in the Nara period for building national temples or those corresponding to national temples.


Zojishi was established for each temple for building facilities and making Buddhist ceremony utensils used in the temple, including copying a sutra. The oldest example of Zojishi was SOGA no Zentoko (son of SOGA no Umako) appointed at the construction of Hoko-ji Temple, and Zojishi was also established at the construction of Asuka-dera Temple (a great number of Fuhonsen coins were found from the facilities); however, Zojishi was formally established after the introduction of the ritsuryo system. Originally, it was mainly the Bureau of Carpentry that was in charge of the construction of temples; however, in light of the temple construction boom that arose out a growing awareness of national protection and the transfer of the capital, the position of Zojishi was established in order to avoid such work being conducted exclusively by the Bureau of Carpentry, as well as to prevent the power and interests being concentrated in their hands.

Zojishi which undertook a large-scale construction installed the four-tiered hierarchy (kami, suke, jo, sakan) and followed the number of employees and official court rank equivalence system of the central government in some cases; besides, sometimes further installed a subordinate office 'Sho'. Under the four-tiered hierarchy, Zojishi had Kanjin Zonin (lower-ranking government official), toneri (servant) and further, a great number of artisan which were ranked according to their skills and mastery from top to downward, ookitakumi, sukunatakumi, chojoko, banjoko, and others.

A major revenue source for Zojishi was originally fuko (salary); however, after the Law Permitting Permanent Ownership of Newly Cultivated Land was enacted, early manor and the like was added to the source. These revenue sources were, accordingly, for the temple through Zojishi; therefore, the sources could be used as a way of supervising and controlling priests at the positions with management roles and lower called 'sango' as well as the temple in a sense, other than the regulations and the central monastic office.

Due to the tightening of regulations on Buddhism after the Dokyo Incident occurred at the end of the Nara period and the financial trouble of the Imperial Court, temple construction had slowed down and most of Zojishi were abolished by the early Heian period; since then, temples and their revenue resources were supervised by betto (head priest) and sango.

Major Zojishi

Nara Yakushi-ji Temple
* Office of Nara Yakushi-ji Temple Construction
Daian-ji Temple
* Office of Daian-ji Temple Construction
Todai-ji Temple
* Office of Todai-ji Temple Construction
Ishiyama-dera Temple
* ZoIshiyamaderasho (subordinate office under Office of Todai-ji Temple Construction)
Shimotsuke Yakushi-ji Temple
* Office of Shimotsuke Yakushi-ji Temple Construction
Hokke-ji Temple
* Office of Hokke-ji Temple Construction
Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City)
* Office of Saidai-ji Temple Construction
Kofuku-ji Temple
* Office of Constructing a Buddha Hall in Kofuku-ji Temple
Sairyu-ji Temple
* Office of Sairyu-ji Temple Construction