Yakushiji Temple

. Yakushipedia - ABC Index .

Daruma Pilgrims Gallery


Temple Yakushi-Ji Nara

official Yakushi-Ji Homepage

CLICK for more photos

This temple is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing, see below.

Yakushiji is one of the seven great temples of Nara. It is part of the Hosso sect, founded by Xuanzang (JPN: Genjo) in China around 630, and established in Japan by the middle of the 7th century.

Yakushiji temple was planned by Emperor Temmu in 680, but was actually constructed by his Empress (Jito) after the Emperor's death. Ironically, the Emperor had commissioned the temple to pray for the recovery of the Empress from a serious illness. Yakushiji was originally constructed in Fujiwara-kyo south of Nara (present day Kashihara city), and was finally completed in 698. The temple was moved to its present location in 718, after the capital was moved to the north of Nara in 710.

Today the Yakushiji temple compound consists of several buildings including the Kondo (main hall), the Kodo (lecture hall), the East and West Pagodas, and the Toindo (East Hall). Most of the original buildings of the temple were destroyed over the years by fires, warfare or natural disasters. However, the East Pagoda has survived, and is the only architecture from the 7th century Hakuoh period in Japan. The other building that is not a recent restoration is the Toindo. This was initially rebuilt in 1285, and underwent extensive restoration in 1733. These two buildings are visually distinct from the others as they have not been painted in the red and white style. The other buildings in the complex are recent restorations built during the past 30 years.

The approach to Yakushiji is along a winding path that passes the Yasumigaoka Hachimangu. This building was constructed in 1603 and is still used to celebrate the Hachiman Festival on September 15th. If you visit at this time, you may be lucky enough to see the local children's sumo competition. Continue along the path and you will eventually come to the Chumon (middle gate). This is also where you pay for admission. When you enter the temple complex, the first buildings that you come to are the pagodas. In the Nara period pagodas were the most important buildings in the temple.
The original West Pagoda (Saito) was burned down in 1528. The current pagoda was reconstructed in 1981 and now stores sacred relics from Gandhara, India.

The East Pagoda (Toto), as mentioned earlier, is the original structure from the 7th century. Although it looks like it has six stories, it actually only has three. The other three "stories" are additional lean-to roofs (mokoshi) and are a bit smaller than those of the three main stories. This roof style is rare and is know as "frozen music" because of its rhythmical appearance. The other remarkable feature of the Toto is the roof ornament, the Sorin. It is made of bronze, has a height of 10 meters, and weighs approximately 3000kg. The Sorin is composed of six elements: Hoju (the Sacred Jewel), Ryusha (the Dragon Vehicle), Suien (the Water Flame), Kurin (the Nine Rings), Fukubachi (the Lotus Flower), and Roban (the Inverted Bowl). The Nine Rings represent the Buddhist deities and the Water Flame is a charm to protect the pagoda from fire. In addition to its religious symbolism, the Sorin is important to the structural stability of a pagoda as well as serving as a lightning rod.

Behind the Pagodas lies the Kondo (Main Hall) which was restored in 1976 and houses the three statues that comprise the Yakushi Triad. These statues are made of bronze and date from the Hakuho Period (645-710). The Triad consists of the Yakushi Nyorai seated between Nikko (Bosatsu of the Sun) to the right and Gakko (Bosatsu of the Moon) to the left. They were originally covered with gold, but the fire of 1528 gave them their current rich black color. The Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha of Healing) is worshiped to cure disease of the mind and body as well as for long life.

The Yakushi Nyorai typically holds a medicine pot in his left hand, but in this case he is sitting on a medicine chest instead. The designs on the chest are significant as they combine elements from the cultures of Greece (grape-vine scroll pattern along the top edge), the Middle-East (lotus design from ancient Persia), India (barbarians crouching in the archways) and China (animal designs on each side: dragon on the east, phoenix on the south, tiger on the west, and tortoise on the north). This combination reflects an awareness in Hakuho-period Nara of the influence of "Silk Road" trade as a conveyer of not only goods but also of ideas and knowledge.

Read more HERE
© Hattori Foundation (est.1919) - The Yamasa Institute


A few days ago I saw a report about the exhibition in the Tokyo National Museum. Many temple treasures will be shown there to the believers of Yakushi, the Buddha of Medicine and Healing.

The most astonishing were the statues of the two Bodhisattva of Sun and Moon, Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu.

They were taken off from the mandorlas behind them and you could see the beautiful features of their back and limbs now from all sides! What a great piece of craftsmanship of these early statues !

平城遷都1300年記念「国宝 薬師寺展」
National Treasures from Yakushi-Ji Temple / Exhibition
Japanese Reference


Saturday, June 25, 2011
Service held ahead of ancient pagoda renovation

A service was held at a temple in Japan's ancient capital of Nara to pray for the safety of a major renovation work on an 8th century pagoda.
With its decorative roofs, the 3-story East Pagoda at Yakushiji, a Buddhist temple, is designated as a national treasure.
Toto, tootoo 東塔 East Pagoda

The pagoda will be taken apart and rebuilt, as its main pillar and other parts of the structure are decaying.

About 4,000 people attended the service on Saturday to pray for the safety of the work.
Monks scattered colorful flower-shaped bits of paper in a ritual called Sange 散華 .

The wooden plates inside the pagoda, on which the names of those involved in past renovations are written, were brought down, and the chief monk prayed for the safety of the renovation work.

Spectators applauded as kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro performed a celebratory dance in dedication.

The East Pagoda will soon be surrounded by a fence, and will not be seen until the renovation work ends in the end of 2019.
source : NHK world news


Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine and Healing

Pilgrimage to 49 Temples of
Yakushi Nyorai in Western Japan


. bussokusekika (仏足石歌) Buddha's footprint stone  
At temple Yakushi-Ji, Nara

. 剣龍山大権現薬師如来 Kenryusan Daigongen Yakushi .
Mount Kenryu-San, Yamagata

. sange 散華 "scattering blossoms" amulets .
from Yakushi-JI


- #yakushiji -


Anonymous said...

Japan Times, April 17, 2008

Tokyo National Museum hosts treasures of Yakushi-ji Temple


With its current exhibition of National Treasures from Yakushi-ji Temple, the Tokyo National Museum is offering a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see masterpieces of ancient Buddhist and Shinto art. For the first time ever, they are being displayed in a museum so that they can be studied much more closely than they can in their usual temple setting.

Great care has been taken with lighting and installation, and in the case of the two stars of the show, the seventh-century bronze bodhisattvas of the sun and the moon that usually flank the main Buddha image in Yakushi-ji, ramps have been constructed so that the statues can be seen from different angles.

(You will have to go to the temple in Nara to see the central Buddha of the triad in situ, although it is well-illustrated in the catalog accompanying the exhibition.)

All three figures are normally backed by gold mandorla — giant free-standing lotus-petals — in the temple, but the two bodhisattvas brought to Tokyo have been separated from these for the purpose of display, so that the graceful lines and details of the backs of the figures can be seen by the public, also for the first time.

The three images were once gilded with gold leaf that burned off during a disastrous fire in 1528, leaving the rich, dark surface of the cast bronze that we see today. It is sobering to consider not only their great age but the highly-advanced technical skill involved in their making.

During the late seventh-century Hakuho Era (672-686) exchanges with China rapidly grew, leading Japanese society to adopt and adapt elements of the mainland culture. The most revolutionary was the spread of Buddhist philosophy and the written Chinese characters with which it was recorded, but along with these came more practical crafts, such as methods for working with metals, lacquer, fabric and ceramics. Such skills were quickly mastered and modified to suit Japanese tastes and needs.

Yakushi-ji is one of the great temples of Nara, dating originally from 680 when it was commissioned by the Emperor Tenmu (?-686) following his empress' recovery from a sickness. Appropriately, the central image of the triad in the Kondo (the main, "Golden" hall), is that of the Yakushi Nyorai — the "Buddha of Healing."

The temple was rebuilt shortly afterward in the new capital, Heijokyo (present-day Nara), where in modified form it remains today. The usual historic litany of fires and other disasters have taken their toll and all that remains of the original buildings is the Eastern Pagoda.

The other old building, the Toindo (East Hall), was rebuilt in 1285 and extensively renovated in 1733, but the rest of the buildings in the temple compound have been rebuilt during the past few decades.

Usually, images of Yakushi Nyorai show the deity holding flasks of medicine, but the Yakushi-ji example is seated in the lotus posture on a symbolic medicine chest covered in a draped cloth similar to those seen in Korean Buddhist sculpture of the same period.

Decorative designs on the chest — arabesques and mythological animals — influenced by those found along the Silk Road and as far away as Greece reveal how ideas as well as goods flowed through the great distances of that trade route.

Masterpieces of bronze casting, the flanking bodhisattvas of the sun and the moon in this exhibition both stand over 3 meters high on lotus pedestals, wearing (unlike the simple monk's robe of the Buddha) princely costumes with elaborate jewelry and hair ornaments similar to those of India.

Their hands gesture compassionate mudra of symbolic meaning appropriate to their enlightened vocation — that of postponing their own entry into the Buddhist paradise of nirvana in order to stay on earth to help other souls along their spiritual path.

The syncretism of imported Buddhism with the native, animist Shinto belief can also be seen at Yakushi-ji. During the late ninth century, the Yasumigaoka Hachiman Shrine was built in the temple compound to house a Shinto deity meant to protect Buddhist law.

Shinto treasures from the shrine within Yakushi-ji include a superb pair of koma-inu guardian beasts, carved from wood and showing traces of applied colors. Sporting splendid bushy tails, one has its mouth open expressing "om," the first vowel of the Sanskrit alphabet, the other with its mouth closed to indicate the last vowel, "um."

They originally protected a triad of 10th-century Shinto figures: the central, male deity of Sogyo Hachiman, flanked by two attendant female deities with long hair and Imperial court robes, all carved of wood that's covered with well-preserved painted colors.

Six of the 13th-century paintings of male and female deities that once decorated the shrine have also been chosen for the Tokyo exhibition.

The other great National treasure exhibited is a small jewel of a painting of Kichijoten on hemp fabric, done during the eighth century. Originally a Hindu goddess of beauty, fortune and fertility before she became a member of the Buddhist pantheon, Kichijoten became popular in Japan during the Tempyo Era (710-794) and later joined the group known in folklore as the "seven lucky gods."

Although otherworldly by nature, the deity is usually portrayed as full-fleshed, young and of such beauty that it is said that monks, probably given the limited choices of their chaste world, were known to fall in love with her.

In the painting from Yakushi-ji, her face is shown with delicate features, and she is dressed with a flowered hair ornament and the flowing, diaphanous costume of a Chinese princess of the Tang dynasty court (618-907). Her left hand offers a sacred jewel with auspicious power.

Again, we are struck not only by the great age of this painting but also how, considering the fate of almost all Yakushi-ji buildings, it has survived in such a fine condition to the present day. The artist is unknown, and even though it is almost impossible to imagine the mind of someone who lived over 1,200 years ago, when we look at this painting we feel that there are emotions and sensitivities that we would certainly be able to share.


Gabi Greve said...

One of the seven BIG TEMPLES of Nara

There used to be seven large temples in Nara, Nanto Shichi Daiji 南都七大寺
Nanto Shichi doo 南都七堂 - shichi daiji 七大寺 :