Kanzeonji-1 monastery, (in) Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Kanzeonji is located in Dazaifu City in Fukuoka Prefecture on the southern island of Kyûshû. Historically, Dazaifu was the port of entry for travelers to and from Korea and China, so government offices were built to receive important foreign missions. An entry of 709 in the Shoku Nihongi states that the unfinished monastery, in need of more funds and workers, was vowed by Emperor Tenji in honor of his mother Empress Saimei. She died in 661, presumably while overseeing a military mission to aid the Korean kingdom of Paekche against its neighbors. A priest named Mansei was sent to supervise the construction in 723. By 731, “the masks, robes, and musical instruments for Gigaku dance drama were presented, indicating that Kanzeonji was largely completed” (McCallum 73). A famous monk Genbô from Nara appears to have been involved in Kanzeon-ji’s “completion of work” ceremony in 745.

There is a theory that the monastery may have been built on the site of an earlier temple, or completed at an earlier date. This is because of a 686 reference in another document (Shinshô kyaku choku fushô: Jifûbu) to land being granted to a temple in the area. Also, the famous bell is inscribed with a date that is equivalent to 698, so portions of the temple could have been already operational. Alternatively, a later text (Ruijû sandai kyaku) proposes that Kanzeonji was founded by Tenji’s successor, Emperor Tenmu. However, archaeologists believe that Kanzeonji’s roof tiles were made using the same moulds as Kawaradera tiles, which date to the late 7th or early 8th century. This points to a connection with Tenji.

Excavations have revealed a middle gate, behind a south gate, with a roofed corridor encircling a golden hall on the west side and a pagoda on the east side. Embedded in the northern part of the roofed corridor is a lecture hall. McCallum sees the layout as “something of a simplification of the Kawaradera plan” (74).

–McCallum (2009: 70-74)

Kanzeonji is mentioned in the Tale of Genji (early 11th century). It had many subsidiary temples in the area, and an Ordination Hall, the Kaidan'in, but none of the original buildings survive. Kanzeonji's present lecture hall and golden hall were built in the Edo period (1600-1868), and are under half the size of the original Nara ones. However, the old foundation stones can still be seen. The bell is said to be the oldest of its kind in Japan. On the precincts there is a storehouse with Buddhist statuary dating to the Heian and Kamakura periods.

-“Dazaifu shipo ‘by’ Nagisan: Kanzeonji hen, honpen.” http://heiankyou.hp.infoseek.co.jp/i-dazaifu-004.htm

Src: JPN

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Mar 18, 2010

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 11 Aug 2014

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 Kanzeonji-1 monastery, JP.

General location of the Kanzeonji-1 monastery, JP.
Lat 33.5150 Long 130.5213
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2009.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Kanzeonji-1 観世音寺 monastery. Alternative English spelling: Kanzeon-ji
  • NOTE: The Kanzeonji-1's relationship to the nearby Kanzeonji-2 is, at the moment unclear - tmciolek, 11 Aug 2014.

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Fukuoka Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • Fu Ôdera –(McCallum (2009: 73)

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Almost exactly, Lat 33.5150 Long 130.5213 - based on visual identification of the monastery in satellite images, using maps.google.com - tmciolek, 26 Mar 2010.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

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

  • Dazaifu-shi (Dazifu City). In 1955, Dazaifu-chô and Mizuki-mura merged to create Dazaifu-shi. -–Nihon chimei jiten (1998: 724)

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

  • Alternative kanji reading for Dazaifu: 大宰府. -–Nihon chimei jiten (1998: 724).

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

11. Date-early

  • 698 – McCallum (2009: 74)
  • MBM chrono-tag: 0667-99c - tmciolek 03 Jun 2013
  • 0667-99c 0700-32c 0733-66c 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

  • MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 03 Jun 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • Kanzeonji may have been a sister temple to Kawaradera in Kyěshě, as well as part of Emperor Tenji's network of state temples, which included Minami Shiga Haiji in Ôtsu. - McCallum (2009)

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological, documents

16. Additional notes

  • [missing data]

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

  • [missing data]

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