Kôfukuji monastery, (in) Nara, Nara Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Kôfukuji is located to the southwest of Tôdaiji monastery in what was once the northeast corner of Heijô-kyô (now Nara City), the capital during the Nara period (710-794). According to the Zoku Nihongi (789), Kôfukuji began as the successor to Yamashinadera, a Fujiwara clan temple abandoned somewhere in Asuka when the Fujiwara followed the imperial court to Heijô. It was pledged in 720 in memory of clan chief Fujiwara no Fubito (Fuhito).

Under imperial patronage, Kôfukuji grew in size to 175 buildings, including three Golden Halls, two Octagonal Halls (North and South), and two pagodas (East and West). Emperor Shômu built the East Golden Hall in 726 to pray for the recovery of his aunt. His consort, Empress Kômyô pledged the 5-story pagoda around 730, and donated a statue of the Buddha to the West Golden Hall. Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu constructed the South Octagonal Hall in 813. (The northern one had been dedicated to Fubito in 721).

Kôfukuji was considered one of the “Four Great Temples” of the Nara period and one of the “Seven Great Temples” of the Heian period (794-1185), but was destroyed in the Genpei Wars (1180-1185), along with most of its documents. Today, the oldest building dates to the Kamakura period (1185-1333). There are many fine sculptures designated as national treasures, such as the Monmu bôsatsu (Bodhisattva of Wisdom) in the East Golden Hall, and the Maitreya Buddha flanked by Four Deva Kings in the Northern Octagonal Hall, carved by Unkei. There are also famous wooden statues of Ashura (demons).

-Ooka (1966: 9-14)
“The Kohfukuji Temple Complex.” -http://www.kohfukuji.com/english.html#english01
“Kofuku-ji.” -http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/nara/kofukuji.html

Fujiwara no Nakamaro granted Kôfukuji its first landed estates. Construction proceeded under the supervision of a court official until 772, when the Fujiwara clan suffered a decline. However, the Northern branch of the Fujiwara, under Fuyutsugu, regained prominence at the Heian court, and made Kôfukuji its ceremonial center. From 801 on, the Yuima’e ceremony and lecture series, performed for the Imperial Court, were held at Kôfukuji. The court appointed the abbots and provided revenue, while the assembly of monks nominated lower-ranking offices.

With the rise of a powerful rival monastery, Enryakuji on Mount Hiei, Kôfukuji lost its monopoly on ordaining monks and representing the court through its ownership of the Office of Monastic Affairs. However, it still dominated Nara to the point that it was called nanto shuto (“the clergy of the southern capital”), and it continued to grow. Fuyutsugu’s grandson Mototsune granted 600 chô of land in Echizen to the monastery in 881. Fujiwara no Michinaga and his son Yorimichi also provided funds. In the 10th century, Kôfuku-ji acquired the Kasuga Shrine, a famous pilgrimage site that brought in donations. From the 11th to the 13th century, it gained Eisanji, Kinpusen, Hasedera, and Hôryûji.

-Adolphson (2000: 21, 23, 24, 27, 54, 60)

Kôfukuji was the headquarters of the Northern school of the Hossô sect, which dominated the six schools of Nara. In the 10th century, competition with the Tendai sect at Enryakuji intensified. In 974, the armed monks of Enryakuji under Ryôgen seized the Gion Shrine in Kyoto, which had been a branch of Kôfuku-ji.

-Groner (2002: 109, 134, 203-205)

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Mar 27, 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 Kofukuji monastery, JP.

General location of the Kofukuji monastery, JP.
Lat 34.68330 Long 135.833120
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2010.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Kôfukuji 興福寺. Alternative English spelling: Kôfuku-ji, Kohfukuji, Kofukuji

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Nara Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • Kôfuku-ji - Tamamuro (1992:783)

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Almost exactly, Lat 34.68330 Long 135.833120 - based on visual identification of the monastery in satellite images, using maps.google.com - tmciolek, 31 Mar 2010.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

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

  • Nara-shi (Nara City), Nobori Ooji-chô

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

  • Heijô-kyô (Heijô Capital)

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • Hossô (Chinese: Fa-hsiang)

11. Date-early

MBM chrono-tag 0700-32c - tmciolek 31 Aug 2013
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

  • The Three-Storied Pagoda was reconstructed in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The East Golden Hall, North Octagonal Hall, Five Storied Pagoda, and the bathhouse were reconstructed in the Muromachi period (1333-1568). -http://www.kohfukuji.com/english.html#english01

13. Date-late

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

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • In the 10th century, Kôfukuji presided over Kiyomizudera in Kyoto. - Groner (2002: 203-205)
  • There was an ongoing rivalry with Enryakuji. - Groner (2002: 203-205)
  • Kôfukuji was a head temple of Murôji. - Mediaunion (2003: 151), Uryû (2003: 211–2).
  • In the Heian period (794-1184), Hôrin-ji became a subsidiary to Kôfukuji - Tamamuro (1992:783)

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Documents, architecture

16. Additional notes

  • In 1006, Kôfukuji was able to muster an army of 3000 warrior monks. - Shively & McCullough (1999: 682)
  • Kôfukuji controlled an estimated 150 estates in 1070. - Piggott (1995: 54)
  • It controlled 300 estates as late as the 16th century. - Adolphson (2000: 6)
  • It controlled about 150 cloisters in the medieval period, and possessed 1000 koku of estates in the Edo period. - Tamamuro (1992: 217).

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

  • [missing data]

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