Yakushiji-1 monastery, (in) Nara, Nara Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Yakushiji ("Temple of the Healing Buddha") may be the earliest Japanese monastery to receive a Buddhist name instead of a geographical one. It was originally built in Fujiwara-kyô, the Chinese-style capital built by Emperor Tenmu (r. 672-686) to the south of Nara (now Kashihara City). The Nihon Shoki (720) reports that Tenmu pledged it in 680 for the health of his consort, Princess Uno. Six years later, he died, and his consort ascended the throne as Empress Jitô, while proceeding with the construction. The Shoku Nihongi (797) states that monks were ordered in 698 to move into Yakushiji, which was near completion. In 701, two court officials were appointed to supervise construction.

Yakushiji was transferred to Heijô-kyô (Nara) shortly after the capital was moved there in 710. The Yakushiji engi (1015) gives a date of 718, but a foundation stone bears the date of 716. The Heijô Yakushiji replicated the plan of its Fujiwara predecessor, although the scale was later enlarged. McCallum sees in the layout –– two pagodas in front of a golden hall in a square enclosure, consisting of roofed corridors –– a similarity to Kamunsa Temple in Silla (Korea). Meanwhile, the temple at Fujiwara continued to be operational until the early 12th century. The main treasure of the Heijô Yakushi-ji is the Yakushi Triad, a Nara-period bronze sculpture.

- McCallum (2009: 201-217)

Dedicated to the Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha of Healing), the monastery cultivated a garden of medicinal herbs. In 749 it was one of four major temples of Heijô to receive from the reigning Empress Kôken a large gift of Ashiginu silk, cotton, cloth weave, 100 bundles of rice, and 100 chô* of newly reclaimed agricultural fields.
*1 chô = roughly 109 meters - Tamamuro (1992: 876)

"Today the Yakushiji temple compound consists of several buildings including the Kondo (main hall), the Kodo (lecture hall), the East and West Pagodas, and the Toindo (East Hall). Most of the original buildings of the temple were destroyed over the years by fires, warfare or natural disasters. However, the East Pagoda has survived, and is the only architecture from the 7th century Hakuho period in Japan. The other building that is not a recent restoration is the Toindo. This was initially rebuilt in 1285, and underwent extensive restoration in 1733." - http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/nara/yakushiji.html

Src: Japan

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Sep 24, 2009

Nara, Japan Page
Lat 34.6833 Long 135.8333

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 01 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 Yakushiji-1 monastery, JP.

General location of the Yakushiji-1 monastery, JP.
Lat 34.668356 Long 135.784311
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2009.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Yakushiji-1 薬師寺. Alternative English spelling: Yakushi-ji.

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Nara Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • [missing data]

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 34.668356 Long 135.784311 - based on visual identification of the monastery in maps, maps.google.com - tmciolek, 8 Dec 2009.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

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

  • Nishinokyô in Nara-shi (Nara city)

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

  • Nara city was formerly Heijô

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • Hossô - Tamamuro (1992: 876).
  • The Southern school of Hossô in the tradition of Hsüan-tsang and Tz'u-en in China. - Groner (2002: 380, n.26)
  • Sanron also flourished there in the 10th century - Groner (2002: 134)

11. Date-early

  • Completed in 698. - Tamamuro (1992: 876)
  • Still under construction in 701. - McCallum (2009: 214)

MBM chrono-tag: 0700-32c - tmciolek 01 Aug 2014 
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

  • Moved or reconstructed in Heijô in 718. - Tamamuro (1992: 876)
  • Reconstructed in 716. - McCallum (2009: 215)

13. Date-late

MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 01 Aug 2014 

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • The Shoka Nihongi (797) and other 8th c. sources list Yakushiji as one of the Four Great Temples connected with the imperial family in the 7th century. The others are Kudara Ôdera, Kawaradera, and Asukadera. - McCallum (2009: 2, 35)

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological, documents, architecture

16. Additional notes

  • Dedicated to the Yakushi Nyorai (Buddha of Healing), the monastery cultivated a garden of medicinal herbs. - Tamamuro (1992: 876)

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

  • [missing data]

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