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Shofuku-ji: The Oldest Zen Temple in Japan
Fukuoka and surrounding
Temples, Churches,  Squares, Parks, Gardens
Temples, Churches, 
Squares, Parks, Gardens

Not far from the central railway station of Fukuoka, there is one of the main city attractions – an ancient Shofuku-ji temple which is the oldest Zen temple in Japan.

In 1195, one of the local philosophers Eisai came back from China where he studied Zen. He thought that Buddhism had a tendency for degenerating and that it needed a boost for development. For continuing education and spreading the doctrine which was new for Japan, he decided to build a temple. Right there, in Fukuoka, the Japanese Zen Buddhism took its origin.

Of course, Eisai had helpers and patrons. Several shoguns allocated a relatively big sum of money for the construction of the first Zen Buddhist temple. Construction works did not last for too long as most of the buildings on that territory were made following the Japanese architectural canons of that time – they were fully made of wood. However, their facing took a longer time. The finest wood carvings decorated almost every sanctuary, meditation hall and tower which were located in the temple complex.

Unfortunately, not all the people accepted the new religious doctrine. So, more and more legends and even horror stories were made up about the temple complex, built by Eisai. Some people thought that it was the home of the philosopher who wanted to create a new religion to bring people under his control. Then why did notable warriors gave him that much money for construction? They must have been forced... Others said that evil spirits lived there and that they were hostile and killed everyone who stepped on the grounds of the temple.

However, after some time the fears were left in the past, and Shofuku-ji became one of the main Japanese religious objects.

As far as it was the place where monks lived permanently, they carefully maintained the whole territory. Thus, the temple complex had been preserved almost perfectly till the beginning of the 20th century. The Second World War brought it the biggest damage. Firstly, many buildings were burned. Secondly, the territory was destroyed by bombing, due to which the temple significantly lost in its size.

Several examples of the old Zen architecture have been preserved to our time, including huge gates, two halls for meditation and a bell tower with an ancient bell.

Address: Shōfuku-ji

Published by

Oksana Shmakova

All content and media files are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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