in front of the Hattō (法堂, main hall)
Basic information
Location 584 Komatsu-chō, Higashiyama-ku,
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Affiliation Zen, Rinzai sect, Kennin-ji school
Deity Shaka Nyorai (Śākyamuni)
Country Japan
Architectural description
Founder Minamoto no Yoriie
Completed 1202

Kennin-ji (建仁寺) is a historic Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan, near Gion, at the end of Hanami Lane. It is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or "five most important Zen temples of Kyoto".


Sanmon (三門, or sammon, main door), bōketsurō (望闕楼)

Kennin-ji was founded in 1202 CE and claims to be the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

The monk Eisai, credited with introducing Zen to Japan, served as Kennin-ji's founding abbot and is buried on the temple grounds. For its first years the temple combined Zen, Tendai, and Shingon practices, but it became a purely Zen institution under the eleventh abbot, Lanxi Daolong (蘭渓道隆 Rankei Dōryū) (1213–1278).

The Zen master Dōgen, later founder of the Japanese Sōtō sect, trained at Kennin-ji. It is one of the Rinzai sect's headquarter temples.


Hōjō (方丈, the Abbot's Quarters),
an Important Cultural Property of Japan

When first built, the temple contained seven principal buildings. It has suffered from fires through the centuries, and was rebuilt in the mid-thirteenth century by Zen master Enni, and again in the sixteenth century with donations of buildings from nearby temples Ankoku-ji and Tōfuku-ji.

Today Kennin-ji's buildings include the Abbot's Quarters (Hōjō), given by Ankoku-ji in 1599; the Dharma Hall (Hatto), built in 1765; a tea house built in 1587 to designs by tea master Sen no Rikyū for Toyotomi Hideyoshi; and the Imperial Messenger Gate (Chokushimon), said to date from the Kamakura period, and still showing marks from arrows. It also has 14 subtemples on the Kennin-ji precincts and about 70 associated temples throughout Japan.

In 2002, the architectural setting was enhanced by a dramatic ceiling painting of two dragons by Koizumi Junsaku (1924–2012). The piece was first painted in the sport hall of a former Elementary school. This bold artwork was installed to commemorate the temple's 800th anniversary. The dragon symbolises the rain of Buddhist teachings. The Shōkoku-ji in Kyoto also features a dragon on the ceiling of its main hall.


Fujin and Raijin by Tawaraya Sōtatsu, a National Treasure

Kennin-ji contains notable paintings by Tamura Sōryū and Hashimoto Kansetsu. Fujin and Raijin, a pair of two-fold screens by Tawaraya Sōtatsu, currently on display at the Kyoto National Museum.

See also



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    Coordinates: 35°00′04″N 135°46′25″E / 35.00111°N 135.77361°E / 35.00111; 135.77361

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