Chion-in in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan is the headquarters of the Jodo-shu (Pure Land Sect) founded by Honen (1133–1212)
The original temple was built in 1234 by Honen’s disciple, Genchi (1183–1238) in memory of his master and was named Chion-in. While the temple was affiliated more closely in the early years with the Seizan branch of Jodo Shu, its 8th head priest, Nyoichi (1262–1321) was deeply influenced by the priest Ryoku, a disciple of Ryochu who was the 3rd head of the Chinzei branch of Jodo-shu Buddhism, and disciple of Bencho. Later Nyoichi’s successor Shunjo (1255–1355) advanced this further by citing a biography where Genchi’s disciple Renjaku-bo and Ryochu agree that there existed no doctrinal differences between them:
Then Renjaku-bo said, “There is complete agreement between what Genchi and Bencho say in their basic teaching. So my disciples should from now on look at the Chinzei teaching as their own. There is no need to set up another school.”
By 1450, Chion-in had become fully under control of the Chinzei branch, but had little direct control, due to the outbreak of the Onin War. Numerous buildings in the complex were burnt down in 1633, but were entirely rebuilt by the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu (1604–51) with the palatial structures that stand today.
On the east side of the Mieido (hall which houses the image of Honen)
The Hojo Garden is in the chisen kaiyushiki (garden which is designed around a pond) style and is said to have been designed in the early Edo (1600-1868) period by the monk Gyokuen, who was connected to garden master Kobori Enshu. The garden includes the Shinji-ike (Heart Character) Pond, the Aoi-an Teahouse, and the Tokugawa Gongendo Hall. The cherry blossoms in the spring, the fresh greenery in early summer, the reflection of the autumn foliage onto the Shinji-ike Pond, and the snowy scenery and clear air in the winter can all clearly be seen, and along with imposing view of the Higashiyama mountains in the background, the garden exudes the moods of the four seasons.
On the southeast side of the Sanmon (Main Gate, at the bottom of the Onnazaka Stairs)
The Yuzen’en Garden was redesigned in 1954 in commemoration of the 300th birthday of Miyazaki Yuzen, the founder of the Yuzen style of dyeing. This is a famous modern garden which consists of two gardens: one that draws water from a Higashiyama spring and one in the karesansui (dry rock garden) style. Inside the garden, there are two tea houses: the first is Karoku-an, which is modeled after an Urasenke-style teahouse, and the Hakuju-an, which was built in commemoration of the 99th birthday of Nakamura Koryu, the 86th chief high priest of the Chion-in. These tea houses add a touch of taste fitting of a famous garden that represents the heart of Japan.