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Muroji, 007, kondo, Golden Hall, front view

Abstract

The kondo at Muroji is one of the original structures remaining from the early Heian period, although it has, of course, undergone numerous repairs and reconstructions since then. Nonetheless, it retains some distinctive characteristics. It is one story in height and has a sense of horizontal balance, rather than the vertical movement of, e.g., the kondo at Horyuji. The roof is cedar bark, rather than the tile of other temples. Rather than being situated in a level compound, surrounded by the defining and containing cloister wall of that compound, the kondo at Muroji stands alone and is fitted with sensitivity into the natural surrounding of the mountainside forest. Hence, in scale, proportion, use of materials, and setting, the kondo at Muroji might be viewed as being perhaps a re-assertion of some indigenous Japanese aesthetic preferences. Interestingly, that suggestion is based entirely upon visual elements, but if we study some of the religious history of Muroji and Mt. Muro, we find some intertwining of Buddhist and Shinto rituals, which might make the suggested aesthetic blending of elements even more plausible. -- BRIEF INTRODUCTORY NOTE RE: MUROJI'S HISTORY: The compound at Muroji is the result of a long history of shift and change, architecturally, artistically, and in terms of religious history. It is a fascinating history and one explored in great richness in the recent landmark work of scholarship, Sherry D. Fowler's Muroji: Rearranging Art and History at a Japanese Buddhist Temple (Honolulu: University of Hawai'I Press, 2005). -- E.g., although we think of Muroji as being a Shingon temple, over its history, at various times, it was aligned closely with other schools of Buddhism, as well. At one point it became a court case whether Muroji should be classified as a Shingon temple or as a sub-temple of Kofukuji, associated with Hossoo school. Shingon advocates constructed a history of Muroji that inserted Kukai to assert the Shingon tradition of the temple and he was, no doubt, very important in the history of Muroji, while the temple was, in fact, founded by Kengyoo, a Hossoo monk from Kofukuji. Dr. Fowler comments, "ninth-century Murooji might be considered a site for monks specializing in ascetic training who followed teachings associated with Hossoo, Tendai, and Shingon." (p.53) -- Adding to this richness of religious history are several other elements that deserve mention here. Mt. Muro was regarded as a sacred space in Shinto tradition, one associated with the dragon believed to reside there, to whom annual rituals were dedicated. That sense of the sacred may be part of why this was chosen as the site for the temple, Muroji, and there continue to be festivals intertwining elements of Shinto and Buddhism. The sacredness of this spot has been enhanced by the legends that Kukai returned from his time in China with relics that he buried at a secret location on Mt. Muro. Still, today, the mountain beyond the Founder's Hall is regarded as a space too sacred to be entered by laity.

Note

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only, in accordance with Fair Use policies. Acknowledgement to be given to the IDEAS Project and to the photographer. Photographer retains copyright.

Administrative Notes

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only, in accordance with Fair Use policies. Acknowledgement to be given to the IDEAS Project and to the photographer. Photographer retains copyright.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Earlham College
PID
coccc:22485
Extent
960 pixels w x 627 high, 96 ppi