Kawaradera monastery, (near) Nara, Nara Prefecture, JP

Raw data

The original location of Kawaradera is unknown, but archeologists believe that they have located its foundations in Asuka Village, partly under the present Gufukuji temple. The foundations reveal that it was large in size. A visitor entering the South Gate, would have seen a pagoda on his right and a golden (main) hall on his left. Further ahead was a central golden hall. Behind that was located the private quarters of the monks, arranged around a lecture hall with access to the North Gate.

The scale of the granite platform for the pagoda suggests that the pagoda could have been five stories tall. An unusual feature is the set of 28 white marble bases of columns in the middle golden hall. Another unusual feature consists of large-scale clay icons. The rooms in the living quarters are large, indicating that there were many monks. There is evidence of an impressively wide roofed corridor. Remains of tiles found in the area resemble tiles at four temples in Ôtsu associated with Emperor Tenji and his effort to establish a network of state temples. Tenji probably ordered the construction of Kawaradera while he lived in Asuka, before moving his capital to Ôtsu in 677.

There is no engi (chronicle) for Kawaradera, and references in the Nihon Shoki (720) are few. As a result, the founding myth of the temple is unknown. However, some historians suggest that it was built on the site of a "Kawara Palace," as a memorial for the ruling Empress Kôgyoku by her son Emperor Tenji. It was later completed by Emperor Tenmu. Empress Kôgyoku died in Kyûshû in 661, while overseeing the dispatch of Japanese forces to aid the beleaguered state of Paekche in Korea against an alliance between Tang China and Paekche's traditional enemy Silla. For this reason, there may be a connection between Kawaradera and Kôgyoku's memorial temple in Dazaifu, Kyûshu, called Kanzeonji [i.e. Kanzeonji-2].

-McCallum (2009: 155-200)

The style of architecture appears to have been influenced by Tang China.


Src: JPN
Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Feb 06, 2010

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 05 Aug 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 Kawaradera monastery, JP.

General location of the Kawaradera monastery, JP.
Lat 34.4722 Long 135.8173
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2009.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Kawaradera 川原寺. Alternative English spelling: Kawara-dera

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Nara Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • Gufuku-ji (Gufukuji)

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 34.4722 Long 135.8173 - based on the visial identification of the Kawaradera site in maps, maps.google.com - tmciolek, 11 Feb 2010.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

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

  • Takaichi-gun, Asuka-mura

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

  • [missing data]

11. Date-early

  • 589 (unlikely); early 7th century; 661. -McCallum (2009)

MBM chrono-tag 0600-32p 0633-66c - tmciolek 05 Aug 2013
0600-32p 0633-66c 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

  • Partly complete by 673; construction continued into the 680s. -McCallum (2009)

13. Date-late

  • Pagoda and lecture hall burned down in 1191, partly rebuilt

MBM chrono-tag 1200=> - tmciolek 05 Aug 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • The Nihon Shoki (720) and other 8th c. sources list Kawaradera as one of four great temples connected with the imperial family in the 7th century. The others are Kudara Ôdera, Asukadera, and Yakushiji-1. Kawaradera may have been a sister temple to Kanzeonji-2 in Kyûshû, 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

  • In 673, Kawaradera received a fief of 500 households from Emperor Tenmu's court.

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

  • [missing data]

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