Story of the Zuiganji temple

The Zuiganji temple, officially called “The Matsushima Seiryūzan-Zuiganenpukuzendera Temple”, is a Zen temple affiliated with the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai Zen sect .

It is said that the Enpukuji temple (延福寺) of the Tendai Sect, which was founded at the beginning of the 9th century by monk Jikaku Daishi Ennin (慈覚大師円仁), is the predecessor of the Kenchō-ji Temple Faction of the Enpuku-ji temple (円福寺) Rinzai school of Buddhism, which was converted and renamed in the middle of the 13th century by the 5th regent of the Kamakura shogunate Hōjō Tokiyori (執権北条時頼公). In the past, it was thought that the Enpukuji temple (延福寺) of the Tendai Sect was destroyed and that the Enpuku-ji temple (円福寺) of the Rinzai Sect was newly built to replace it.

However, due to recent excavations and reconsideration of the literature, we came to think that the Enpukuji temple (延福寺) of the Rinzai sect was rebuilt in the middle of the 13th century and coexisted with the temple of the Tendai Sect on the actual site of the Zuiganji Temple. Entering the Muromachi period (1333-1573 CE), the Rinzai Enpukuji temple (円福寺) got the rank of Shozan (諸山: third-class temple) temple, which is ranked right after the temple rank of Gozan and Jissatsu (五山十刹: first-class and second-class temples) and prospered greatly. On the other hand, the Enpukuji temple (延福寺) of the Tendai sect gradually declined, but at least the Godaidō (五大堂) Buddhist Temple was reconstructed by Date Masamune in 1604 (Kecho 9) and seems to have been managed and operated by the followers of the Tendai sect. Around 1637 (Kan’ei 14) the Godaidō (五大堂) Buddhist temple was integrated and managed by the Zuiganji temple.

Once the reconstruction of the Godaidō (五大堂) Buddhist temple started in 1604 (Kecho 9), Date Masamune decided to rebuild the Rinzai Enpukuji temple (円福寺) too. The lumber and other materials were sought from the Kishū Kumano region and the best 130 master craftsmen were called from the Kinki region, who engaged in a 5 years construction work which came to completion in 1609 (Kecho 14). The name was then changed from Rinzai Enpukuji temple (円福寺) to Matsushima-Seiryūzan-Zuiganenpukuzendera temple (松島青龍山瑞巌円福禅寺:the actual official name of the temple), and 13 years after the restoration in 1622 (Genna 8) the wall paintings inside the temple were also completed.

Zuiganji temple was then granted with the highest recognition and received the greatest protection for being the largest temple of the area with over 110 temples to its branch and also for becoming the temple hostsng Date Masamune’s family grave.

However, the political measure to restore the Imperial rules taken at the beginning of the Meiji restoration gave rise to an anti-Buddhist movement. Furthermore, the reversion of Date family’s ownership to the Emperor caused the elimination of the temple territories starting with the Zuiganji temple and then followed by the other temples in Matsushima. But due to the great efforts of the chief priest of Zuiganji temple Taiyō Tōchō (住持太陽東潮) to preserve the temple during several years, the Emperor of Japan decided to lodge at the temple in 1876 (Meiji 9) and bestow the temple of 1000 yen, allowing the temple its restoration.
The actual main temple building (本堂), Onari entrance (御成玄関), kuri (庫裡: Temple kitchen), as well as the corridor (回廊) are all designated as national treasures. Onari gate (御成門: gate of honor), central gate (中門) and taiko fences (太鼓塀) are designated as national important cultural properties.


Chronological History

In the Tendai Records that we can find at the Zuiganji temple, it is recorded that the Tendai-Enfukiji temple was originally built in 828 (Tenchō 5) by the monk Jikaku Daishi (慈覚大師, also known as monk Ennin). Then around 1259 (Shōgen 1) the regent Hōjō Tokiyori (執権北条時頼) banished all the followers of the Tendai sect to usher the high-ranking Zen monk Hosshin and found the Rinzai-Enpukuji temple (円福寺).

About the Enpukuji temple(円福寺), based on the parts of the home shrine (雲板) and other results of the excavation of the Zuiganji temple, the Enpukuji temple(円福寺) appears to be well-ordered around the beginning of the 14th century but unfortunately the positioning of the various buildings constituting the temple as well as the actual scale of the temple remain unknown. Even studying the manuscript related to the history of the temple told in picture left by the holy priest Ippen (一遍上人絵伝), we could only understand that there were 2 cloisters circling the temple. At first it was affiliated to the Kenchōji temple of the Rinzai school, and was a prosperous prayer hall of the Kamakura shogunate. During the Muromachi period (1333-1573 CE) it ascended from the Shozan status (諸山: third-class temple) of the Kyōto temples classing system to the high ranking status of Jissatsu (十刹: second-class temple; first-class temples being 五山 Gozan), becoming one of the ten most important Rinzai temples. During the warring states (Sengoku period, approx. 1467-1568 CE) it gradually declined and around 1578 (Tenshō 6) became part of the Myōshin-ji temple school of the Rinzai sect.

During the early days of the Edo period (1603-1868 CE), Date Masamune saddened by the decline of the famous Enpukuji temple (円福寺) decided to build a brand new monastery instead. A monastery which will bear the name of Zuiganji temple and revive the activity.

Period Temple name Matsushima area’s history
Heian period 延福寺
Enpukuji temple
801 Military commander Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (坂上田村麻呂) built a temple and installed a statue of Buddhist deity Vaisravana (多聞天像).
828 Monk Ennin Jikaku Daishi (慈覚大師円仁) established the Enfukiji temple, installed the statues of the Five Wisdom Kings (五大明王像) in the Bishamondō temple and gave it the name of Godaidō (五大堂)
1104 Kenbutsu Shonin (見仏上人) came to Oshima island and built himself a hermitage which was then called the Myōkaku hermitage.
1248 Hōjō Tokiyori (北条時頼) came to Matsushima
1259 Enpukiji temple construction
High-ranking Zen monk Hosshin (法身禅師) became the founder
1280 Holy priest Ippen (一遍上人) came to Matsushima
Kamakura period 1307 Foundation of the Raikennohi (頼賢の碑: Stone monument) in Oshima island
Enpukuji temple
1326 Enpukiji temple 10th generation – Monk Minkyoku
casted the cloud shaped gong (雲版) of the temple
1578 The Enpukiji temple became affiliated with the Myōshin-ji school
1604 Reconstruction of the Godaidō temple by Date Masamune
Revivification of the Enpukuji temple(円福寺) by Date Masamune
1608 The Enpukuji temple(円福寺) was renamed to Zuiganji temple
Casting of the bell (梵鐘) of the Zuiganji temple
1609 Zuiganji temple ridgepole-raising ceremony
1622 Completion of the illustrations drawn on the fusuma (Japanese sliding screen) inside the Zuiganji temple
南北朝 1637 The Godaidō (五大堂) temple came under management of the Zuiganji temple
1689 The haiku poet Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉) made a pilgrimage to Zuiganji temple