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Manpukuji Temple

Sharing an interwoven bond of birth and rebirth

Kyoto University's Uji Campus, on the southern edge of Kyoto City, is currently an area with a concentration of advanced engineering research facilities such as natural science research institutes and centers as well as large - scale testing facilities. Yet just half a kilometer to the east sits Manpukuji Temple, unique even amongst Kyoto's numerous temples for its exotic atmosphere and ancient history. This is one of the places where students who studied or researched at Kyoto University's Uji Campus take nostalgic strolls.

The founding of Manpukuji dates back to the middle of the 17th Century. In 1654 the Chinese Zen-Buddhist priest Yin-yuan (known in Japan as Ingen) came to Japan along with his disciples, in response to an invitation from Japan. With the support of the Imperial family and Tokugawa Shogunate, he founded the Obaku Sect, Japan's new Zen sect, bringing a blast of fresh air to Japan's then-stagnant Buddhist community. Manpukuji, which serves as the head temple of the Obaku sect, was built in 1661 along the lines of Chinese (Ming era) style of the time, introducing new techniques and designs which had heretofore never been seen in Japanese temples. The symmetrical layout of the grounds of the temple bring a kind of lightness to the air. The teachings of the monks during the time, when Japan had entered a period of isolationism, were not limited to the teachings of Zen. The monks of the Obaku sect brought advanced techniques from China, and had a major impact on Japan's society and culture as experts in land reclamation and bridge-building, and in setting up Japan's first library.

Professor Hitoshi Tanaka, Assistant Director of the Disaster Prevention Research Institute located on the Uji Campus, said he often visited the temple when he was a student. "In those days, Kyoto University's student housing was in Obaku. Due to the effects of student protests, there were often no classes, so I had a lot of time to spend on club activities," says Prof. Tanaka looking back over his student life in the 70's. Obaku was the closest train station, and for many Kyoto University alumni remains memorable as the label given to the entire Uji Campus. Prof.Tanaka, an architecture major, was sufficiently interested in the temple to make Manpukuji the subject of one of his papers on Japanese architectural history.

Manpukuji was an important source of Chinese advanced cultural influence during Japan's period of isolationism. Kyoto University's Uji campus fulfills a similar role in disseminating advanced natural science research in this period of globalization. Although the times are different, Obaku area continues to radiate such a unique presence as a place of gathering and transmission of knowledge, even to the current day.

 Sekijo : This temple's approach crosses the temple grounds both lengthways and width ways. Paved with flat diamond-shaped stones arranged in the diagonal, it was designed to resemble the scales of a dragon's spine. Its name refers to the unique stone edging on both sides of the pafh.
 The buildings of Obakusan are a Buddhist temple layout modeled on the Chinese Ming style. The main temple is a high-roof space that is set off from the front room and nested between halls of the same size on its left and right. The temple remains in its original form. Its style is rare to Japan and is seen as a representative Zen Buddhist temple complex
 Seated Hotei (Maitreya-Bodhisattva) in Tenouden : Tenouden was built in 1668. At the front of Tenouden is enshrined Hotei, who is said to be the incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva in China. Hotei is seated in Tosotsuten (Tusita Heaven), his dwelling in the celestial world.