Kiyomizudera monastery, (in) Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Kiyomizudera is located to the east of Heian-kyô (now Kyoto), about 11 miles from Sanjô Bridge on Matsuwara Street. It lies at the eastern end of Kiyomizu-saka, a steep road ascending Mount Otowa. Earthenware called Kiyomizu-yaki used to be sold along the road.

According to legend, Kiyomizudera was founded by the Tendai monk Enchin (814–891) during the reign of Emperor Kônin (770–781). Enchin was guided by a dream to the source of the Kiso River, where he met a local Shinto deity, Gyôei, who gave his approval for a new monastery. Living in a hut, Enchin supposedly carved a statue of the Kannon bodhisattva, aided by the famous general Tamuramaro and his wife. Tamuramaro donated his house to be relocated to the fledgling “Kannonji” (also known as Tamuradô Hall). Following Tamuramaro’s defeat of the Emishi tribes in Northern Japan, Emperor Heijô donated his own Shishinden hall to be moved and reassembled at the new temple, then called Otowazan. Hence the main hall was built in the style of a palace. It burned down and was rebuilt in 1708 by the Tokugawa shogun Iemitsu.

Other buildings include the two-story Rômon gate with 12-foot statues of Buddhist guardians, the Seimon, or Western Gate, a three-story pagoda with a 17-foot base, and the Jôjoin cloister, the residence of the abbot. On August 17th, a ritual dance takes place on a dance stage, which sticks out of the steep slope. Railings were installed to prevent dancers from plunging over the edge in an attempt to demonstrate their faith. The precincts also contain a Shinto shrine, supposedly built by Tamuramaro in 798. There were a number of other halls, each dedicated to a different Buddhist deity: Shakadô, Honshidô (or Amidadô), Okunoin (a hexagonal structure built on the site of Gyôei and Enchin’s hut), and a shrine dedicated to Enchin. A famous waterfall, Otowa-no-taki, is believed to cure illness.

- Kyoto City Council (1895: 114, 115)

In 988, Retired Emperor Kazan added Kiyomizu-dera to the Saigoku pilgrimage of the 33 Kannon Bodhisattva temples. Pilgrimages to the monastery are mentioned in Heian literature, such as the Tale of Genji, Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, and A Diary of Michinaga Fujiwara. In 999, Kiyomizu-dera became a sub-temple of Kôfukuji.

-“Kiyomizudera ryaku-nenpyô”

Kiyomizudera was “the most important Hossô branch in Kyoto” (115). In the late Heian period, its monks were affected by factional politics between Kôfukuji, the leader of the Hossô sect, and its main rival Enryakuji (Hiezan), leader of the Tendai sect. Within the monastery itself, monks were divided between the emperor’s faction of appointees and the Fujiwara faction.

In 1102, Kiyomizudera monks opposing Fujiwara influence attacked Jôshin while he was on his way from Kôfukuji in Nara to accept his appointment as the new abbot. In 1113, Kôfukuji monks protested when Emperor Shirakawa assigned an Enryakuji-trained abbot to Kiyomizudera. The court backed down, but Enryakuji monks from Mount Hiei attacked Kiyomizudera, destroying much of it. The monastery was sacked again in 1165, when Kôfukuji and Enryakuji burned each other’s sub-temples during a row that began over seating arrangements at the funeral ceremony of Emperor Nijô.

- Adolphson (2000: 115-6, 120-1, 141)

Built on the side of a steep hill to the East of Kyoto, Kiyomizudera is well-known for the dramatic veranda of the main hall, supported by 139 wooden pillars, each 49 feet high. The waterfall pours over the roof of a small edifice in three streams. Pilgrims fill ladles with water to drink it.

- “Kiyomizudera, Kyoto”

In the Edo period, it acquired 133 koku of estates - Tamamuro (1992: 152)

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Jul 07, 2010

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 31 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 Kiyomizu-dera monastery, JP.

General location of the Kiyomizu-dera monastery, JP.
Lat 34.994958 Long 135.785047
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (, 2010.

Google Map link:,%20JP)&ll=34.994958,135.785047&spn=05.0,05.0&t=k&hl=en

Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Kiyomizudera 清水寺. Alternative English spelling: Kiyomizu-dera

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Nara Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 34.994958° Long 135.785047° - visual identification in - lhp, 07/06/10

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

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

  • Kyôto-shi (Kyoto City), Higashiyama-ku (ward), Kiyomizu

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

  • Hossô
  • Hossô, Shingon until 1885, exclusively Kita-Hossô after 1885. - Tamamuro (1992:152)

11. Date-early

MBM chrono-tag 0767-99c - tmciolek 31 Aug 2013
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

  • [missing data]

13. Date-late

MBM chrono-tag 1200=> - tmciolek 31 Aug 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Architectural, documents

16. Additional notes

  • [missing data]

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

  • [missing data]

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