Chûsonji monastery, (in) Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Fujiwara no Kiyohira (?–1126), of the Ôshû branch of the Fujiwara courtier family, began building Chûsonji in 1126 on Kanzan mountain overlooking Hiraizumi. It was the site of an earlier Kanzan Chûsonji temple, founded in 850 by Ennin from Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei.

Kiyohira apparently wished to spread Kyoto culture to the northeastern district. Through Chûsonji, Kiyohara envisioned creating a Buddhist Pure Land on earth. He built 40 structures, many of which were decorated with gold, extracted from the otherwise “economically backward” region, sometimes called the “deep East.” His son Motohira and grandson Hidehira continued expanding the temple grounds.

Chûsonji began to decline after the Ôshû Fujiwara clan was defeated by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun, who then occupied Hiraizumi in 1189. Many of the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1337. Today, the Konjikidô is the only remaining building made of gold. It was built at the request of Kiyohira’s wife, and houses a golden statue of Amida (Amitabha), the main object of worship. The museum houses 5,300 scrolls decorated with gold and silver, art objects from Southeast Asia, and sutras from Sung Dynasty China.

- Uryû (2003: 214)
- Goedertier (1968: 33)
- Chusonji Temple Map [unknown date]
-“Chûsonji nit suite”

“[Kiyohira’s] reasons for choosing Hiraizumi included easy accessibility by both land and water routes, a unique liminal position at the confluence of northern and southern ecosystems, and, if recent research is correct, proximity to excellent farmland located just east across the Kitakamigawa River.”

- History of Hiraizumi

“Hiraizumi, situated 8 km north of Ichinoseki, was made into a city of note in the twelfth-century by the Fujiwaras. Second only to Kyoto, Hiraizumi was a major center of politics and culture for a century.”

“In its heyday there were over three hundred buildings in the Chusonji compound. With the decline of the Fujiwara clan, battles, fire and central government decrees, much of the wealth was dispersed or lost.”

The oldest surviving buildings are the Konjikido (Golden Hall), built in the early 12th century, quite literally covered in gold, the sutra repository (Kyozo), constructed in 1108, and the Fujiwara memorial hall (Sankozo), constructed in 1124, which contains many national treasures.
- Hiraizumi Guide Map. Map. Hiraizumi c. 2006
Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Aug 23, 2010

Tateishi, Japan Page
Other names: Hiraizumi
Latitude 38.9833 Longitude 141.1167

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 14 Jan 2013

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 200 m from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Chusonji monastery, JP.

General location of the Chusonji monastery, JP.
Lat 39.00141 Long 141.10286
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (, 2010.

Google Map link:,%20JP)&ll=39.00141,141.10286&spn=05.0,05.0&t=k&hl=en

Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Chûsonji 中尊寺. Alternative English spelling: Chûson-ji, Chusonji

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Iwate Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 39.00141 Long 141.10286 based on the visual identification of Chusonji in maps, - tmciolek, 25 Aug 2010.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

  • Nishiiwai-gun, Hiraizumi-chô, Koromozeki

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • Tendai

11. Date-early

  • MBM chrono-tag 0833-66c - tmciolek 14 Jan 2013
  • 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-ex

12. Date-intermediate

  • MBM chrono-tag 1200=> - tmciolek 14 Jan 2013

13. Date-late

  • [missing data]

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • A connection with Enryakuji (Hieizan) through Ennin and the Tendai sect

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Architecture, artifacts, documents

16. Additional notes

  • 1,000 monks are said to have chanted the Lotus Sutra during Chûsonji’s consecration ceremony. - Yiengpruksawan (1998: 76)
  • Chûsonji owned “a sizeable portfolio of temple estates” (jiryô) -Yiengpruksawan (1998: 78)
  • 118 tax-immune estates -Yiengpruksawan (1998: 262)

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

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