Horyu-ji Temple’s Japanese National Treasures

After seeing the main temple area of Horyu-ji, the Sai-in Garan, and the Yumedono in the To-in Garan, many people feel they have fully enjoyed Horyu-ji. However there is still a lot to see! Horyu-ji has more Japanese National Treasures in one place than anywhere else in Japan. In fact, all its national treasures are equal to all of the Japanese National Treasures in the entire Kanto region. Today, we are going to show some of the most spectacular and important of Horyu-ji Temple’s Japanese National Treasures.


Horyu-ji Temple’s Japanese National Treasures: Ancient Buildings

Saien-do [西円堂]

Sitting on the hilltop next to the Sai-in Garan is the Saien-do. While the Saien-do doesn’t get as much attention as the Sai-in Garan it is one of Horyu-ji’s national treasures too.

Allegedly commissioned by Empress Komyo’s mother, Tachibana, this little temple enshrines a statue of Yakushi Nyorai. Though unfortunately the original Saien-do burnt down, the statue of Yakushi Nyorai survived. The current Saien-do dates back the Kamakura Period, and has remained intact since then.

one of Horyu-ji Temple's national treasures special octagonal shaped saien-do at Horyu-ji temple
Saien-do: it is an octagon shaped building like Yumedono

The Saien-do is sometimes called Mine no Yakushi, since it sits on top of a hill. People would often confuse “mine” for “mimi” (ear), leading to the belief that the Saien-do is cures hearing problems.

Daihozo-in [大宝堂院]

Daihozo-in is a treasure house that exhibits many Buddha statues and artifacts in Horyu-ji’s possession. You need a ticket for the Daihozo-in, but if you can purchase a combined ticket for the Sai-in and To-in garan, it also covers your admission to the Daihozo-in.

one of Horyu-ji Temple's national treasures the Daizoho-in
Daizoho-in. The building is not old at all.

The major attraction of Daihozo is a wooden statue of Kudara Kannon, a Japanese National Treasure. Many consider this Asuka Period statue a rare piece of Japanese Buddhist art, due to its slender frame and peaceful expression.

Some of the other famous treasures in the Daihozo-in are the statue of Yumetagai Kannon, the “Dream Changing” Kannon, and the Tamamushi no Zushi, an ancient miniature shrine made of jewel beetle shells.

Shoryoin and Higashi Muro [聖霊院・東室]

Near the entrance to the Sai-in Garan is the Shoryoin, a small temple for Prince Shotoku and his family.

one of Horyu-ji Temple's national treasures, the Shoryoin

 Prior to the Kamakura Period the Shoryoin however, did not exist. Instead, the only building in this location was the Higashi Muro, an Asuka Period structure that first served as a study hall for the monks. In the 13th century, the Shoryoin was built in front of the Higashi Muro to house statues of Prince Shotoku, his brother, and son.

The Higashi muro and asuka period building at Horyo-ji Temple
Higashi Muro, behind the Shoryoin

Although the Shoryoin is a bit newer thsn other buildings, it is one of the few surviving examples of shinden-zukuri architecture. This architecture style is the basis for Japanese mansions and was very popular in the Heian Period.

Though the Higashi Muro is still intact today, no one can enter it. However, the Shoryoin welcomes visitors and you can get shuin stamp here too. If you come between March 22nd you can see the statues of the prince and his family.

Sankyo-in and Nishi Muro [ 三経院・西室]

Built at the same time as the Higashi Muro, the Nishi Muro was the living quarters for monk staying at Horyu-ji Temple. After a terrible fire in the 11th century the Nishi Muro was rebuilt. At that time, the front became the Sankyo-in. This lecture hall got its name from three Buddhist sutras: the Yuima-kyo, Hokke-kyo and Shoman-kyo. Like the Shoryoin, the Sankyo-in is another example of shoin-zukuri, making it yet another of Horyu-ji’s Japanese National Treasures.

Sankyo-in building at Horyu-ji Temple in Nara

In the summer, monks from Horyu-ji conduct lectures on these three sutras. These lectures are open to the public, so feel free to drop by.

Jikido [食堂]

Originally built in the Nara Period, the Jikido was once upon a time a cafeteria for the monks at Horyu-ji. In front of the Jikido is the Hosodono, which at one time connected to the Jikido. In the 8th century, it was commonplace to build two simple buildings parallel to one another, instead of one large more complex building.

Jikido, an old cafeteria building at Horyu-ji temple
Hosodono in front of Jikido

Kofuzo [網封蔵]

Kofuzo is one of Horyu-ji’s art repositories from the early Heian Period. Though it might seems to be one big building, it is in fact, two different building combined.

Kofuzo building at Horyu-ji Temple in Nara next to red trees

Parallel storage buildings like this are only present in Horyu-ji and Todai-ji, but scholars typically agree that Horyu-ji’s originated first.

Coming next time,
The resting place of Japan’s legendary Prince Shotoku, Eifuku-ji Temple

The adventure continues…

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