Kōrin-in is one of those temples that are closed to visitors most of
the time. Fortunately, my visit to Daitoku-ji coincided with the time when its
doors were open to public. The temple is impressive, but there is not a lot of
information about it at ones fingertips. Luckily, Gregory Levine’s book titled
“Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastery” shed some light on the
temple’s history. Kōrin-in had begun its existence around 1520 as a family mortuary
for the daimyo of Noto Prefecture.
Its founding abbot Shōkei Jōfu was one of Daitoku-ji’s most venerated
monks. Following his death in 1536, Kōrin-in begun to function as his
mausoleum. At the end of the 16th century the temple transitioned to a mortuary
site for the Maeda clan and by the beginning of the 17th century became a
regular urban temple. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) it even functioned as
a hospital before being marketed as Ryōshō-ji. The original Ryōshō-ji site was destroyed,
but Daitoku-ji leadership needed to maintain the Ryōshō-ji brand and Kōrin-in
was a conveniently available surrogate for it. Once the new Ryōshō-ji was
reconstructed in 1932, Kōrin-in was reverted to being Kōrin-in again.
It wasn’t the only swindle in Kōrin-in’s history. I should mention that
the temple remained Shōkei Jōfu’s mausoleum throughout its existance. However,
in 1998 it’s been discovered that one of Kōrin-in’s main relics, a statue
venerated as the depiction of the temple’s founder Shōkei Jōfu was originally a
portrait of Ten’yū Jōkō, the founding abbot of now extinct Baigan-an temple.
This is especially baffling because Ten’yū was a prominent figure affiliated
with Daitoku-ji’s Northern faction (Daisen-in temple), while Kōrin-in’s founder
Jōfu belonged to the Southern faction (Ryōgen-in temple). Here goes my idea of
Daitoku-ji as one big happy family. The displacement of this statue probably
happened during the first years of Meiji period (following 1868) when things
got out of control due to the movement to abolish Buddhism and make Shintō the
state religion. Korin-in’s Abbot’s Quarters building or hōjō has been constructed between 1533 and 1552 making it one of
oldest extant buildings of its kind. The building is executed in Muromachi style
and goes well with Daitoku-ji’s overall character. Sliding door panels divide
its interior into eight rooms floored with tatami (see images above). The
building served various ritual, social and residential functions. The alter
room (butsuma) with the adjacent
chapel (shit-shū) situated at the
core of the building weren't open for viewing. Apparently, the alter room is
dominated by the portrait of Shōkei Jōfu and the “Jōfu/Ten’yū” statue mentioned
above. By the way, the leftmost image above shows the oldest extant example of tokonoma
alcove in Japan.
Temple gardens are always my primary interest, but I haven't been able to find any substantial information
about Kōrin-in’s gardens. Apparently, the dry garden along
the southern side of hōjō (images above) represents the idea of paradise according to Chinese mythology with its
rocks and azaleas symbolising mountains. One of the trees in this
garden is said to represent the “Baidara”
tree whose leaves were used for writing Buddhist scripture in ancient India. Those
Indian manuscripts were actually made of palm leaves and the Japanese word “Baidara” may have originated from the
Sanskrit word “patra” which means
writing sheets made of palm leaf.
Hōjō’s eastern side overlooks a moss garden (images above). I found no
information about its symbology. Its design features a wavy strip of bare
ground. I would like to know what it represents. May be a river?
Northern side of hōjō faces Kankyo-tei teahouse surrounded by a tea
garden (see images above). Apparently, Kankyo-tei’s name comes from a poem by tea
master Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) and it roughly translates as “solitude tea hut”.
Its design is a copy of famous Hassō-an teahouse designed by tea master Kobori
Above is a composite image of Kankyo-tei’s interior. Hassō-an and Kankyo-tei
follow a design called hassōnoseki or
"eight-windowed [room]". This design is attributed to Furuta Oribe who
was Enshū's teacher. The innovation of this design was more windows at varying
heights (see the image above), especially around temae-za (the place of the host). This created a “spotlight” effect
on the host performing the ceremony, which could be perceived as vane. On the
other hand, it made the ceremony more fun to watch, which could be perceived as
being attentive to guests. Tea master Sen Rikyū (1522-1591) liked it dark and austere
in line with the aesthetic principles of Zen, while Oribe liked it to be less
severe and more fun. I can see the merits in both views.
Images above show a little more of Kōrin-in. The leftmost image shows a
small shrine at the North-east corner of hōjō.
Center image shows a walkway leading from one of the temple’s buildings to hōjō. Rightmost image shows a courtyard
garden with stepping stones. Images below show little things here and there that
caught my eye.
I am really glad Kōrin-in was open on that summer day, last year.