The Buddha Statues of KOUHEIJl Temple KANNON-DO
located In SHIMONO, Kao-Town, Yamaga City, Kumamoto （translated by Minako Uno）
The Ancient Temples Before Koheiji
It was found that there was already a big temple around the 8th or 9th century, leading to discoveries of many 9th century nunome-gawara (rooftiles having an appearance of cloth)at Shin-do-ura near the Koheiji Kannondo. Currently, Shin-do-ura is a grave site.
Koheiji-- Built In the The Heian Period
The main hall of the temple was first built at Shin-do-ura in the Heian Period 1058, and is called "Kouhei-gannen (the first year of Kouhei)". Like Enryaku-ji (since 788, Enryaku 7th - )in Kyoto, Koheiji is one of the few temples named after the era in which it was built. Also some say that it's possible that Koheiji was built by a royal command, just as Enryakuji was.
Shimono-zan Enju-in Kouheiji, which was a big mountain temple, consisted of "4 lecture halls" and "Kujuku-in" in the 4 valleys of Shimono, At the summit of the Shimei-ga-take mountain a bell tower can be found. When the bell rang it is said that the monks in the temple gathered and made a devotion (praying, studying, and religious training) at the main hall.
Kouheiji In Medieval Times
In the Kamakura Period (around 1185- 1333), Kouheiji was a rich temple part of the vast "Kouheiji territory". In the middle of that period, the current "statues of the Senju-kannon and the 28 attendants" were produced.
ln 1294, to beat off the Menggu (Mongoloid people), they gave an invocation to spur the surrender of the enemy.
In 1302, at the chief priest Teisen's request, the temple had become the prayer room for Gofushimi (the 93th Emperor).
Also in 1312, the "Saishiki-kuyou" ceremony was held to color the wooden 28 attendants,conducted by Houin (one of the priest rank) Teikyu.
Teikyu, who made efforts to revive Kouheiji, has his name and achievements described on the monumental inscription of Nyohou-kyoutou found in Shindou-ura, Nyohou-kyoutou is a big stone construction having passages from sutras and according to it, we can find Teikyu passed away when he was 63.
In the final stage of the Nanbokucho Era (1136-1392), Uchinokoga, who was based in Yamamoto (the current Ueki town, next to Kao town) advanced into Shimono and built the Shimono castle (mountain castle in medieval times). As a protector of the temple, he repaired the lecture hall and built the Buddha statues. Unfortunately he was attacked by Toyotomi Hideyoshi due to his Kyushu suppression. They say at that time the temple had lost its power. However, the precious statues have been protected by the true faith of the people, even up to the present.
After Transferring To The Current Location
Kouheiji was transferred to the current location in the beginning of the Edo Period, when Houin Keichi built the Kouheiji Kannon Do. Since then the statues were repaired and the temple has been respected and cared for by the people as a main place of worship.
Incidentally, the current Kannon Do was built in 1836 according to ridgepole inscriptions under the roof.
The Main Buddha Statues Of Kouheiji - The Prefectual lmportant Cultural Properties
The Temple's Principal Object Of Worship "Senju Kannon Statue"
Age: Kamakura Period
Parquet of Camphor (some original construction materials remain on the back of the head to the back). Other parts were made up in The Edo Period. The eyes are carved and colored.
"Senju Sengen Kanzeon" is a Bosatsu (a Buddhist saint given an affirmative relief during his training), seeing the people with a thousand eyes on a thousand palms and saving them with a thousand hands. When he saves people, he transforms into 33 images depending on the situation.
28 attendants (25 Statues Were Made In The Kamakura Period)
Age: Kamakura Period
Many of them are made of all Cypress, while some are constructed of Camphor or Kaya tree. The 28 attendants are called Tenbu, protecting Senju Kannon. Tenbu is originally derived from Gods of ancient Indian Brahmin or Hindu, who took refuge in the Buddha and edified Buddhism, and became the Buddha's guardian gods.
From inscriptions on its leg, the Kaya wood Taishakuten indicates a coloring ceremony conducted by Teikyu Houin in 1312. It is a graceful statue along with Daibenkudokuten, which is also made of Kaya.
From the inscription on the leg of Manzenshaou, we can also find the same description as Taishakuten. Although the whole description has not been revealed, "Busshi (a person who makes Buddha statues), Minbuhokkyou---" is described.
Karuraou, made of cypress, is the Garuda, having a human body, big wings, a sharp face like an eagle, breathes fires and even eats dragons. As we can see from his hands, this Karuraou seems to be attending Buddha, playing music with his flute.
※ The temples which have 28 attendants in Japan:
Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizudera, Ninnaji in Kyoto, Jyourakuj"n Shiga, Shiofune Kannonji in Tokyo Oume, Manoji in Chiba Awa, etc...
Age: Beginning of The Heian Period
A 3 dimensional sculpture carved from Kaya, including the lotus seat.
It has a very severe face gathering the eyes, mouth, and nose in the center. The head has depth and is massive overall, with an ancient skirt pleated in the Honpa style, hinting at its Jougan art style. According to these expressions, the statue is considered to be made around the 9th century, and is thought to be from a temple previous to Kouheiji.
Jizou Bosatsu is known as a Bosatsu, who saves even people from Hell, and appears in the time between the death of the Buddha and the appearance of Miroku Bosatsu.
We can see that Jizou Bosatsu is already taking a first step in saving people.