Golden Hall at Chusonji

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The Konjikido at Chusonji was a jewel in the countryside of Japan. Completed in 1126 by the Fujiwara family, its function was not only as a funeral chapel for the three generations of male leaders of the Fuijwara, but also to aid the fallen soldiers of the recent civil wars to “achieve rebirth in Amida’s Pure Land.” 1 Fujiwara No Kiyohira emerged from the civil wars victorious, determined to found a new capitol for the provinces of the north, located in Hiraizumi in the Iwate province. In the construction of the new capitol and its temples, his intentions seem clear: he wanted the splendor and opulence of his newly founded capitol to rival that of the imperial city, Kyoto. It is possible he was trying to prove himself and his family to the Kyoto rulers and this is what led to the magnificence of Chusonji. The low regard the aristocracy felt toward the northern Fujiwara is shown in several stories.2 After establishing the capital, Kiyohira was appointed to command six additional outlying districts, which further consolidated his power and authority.3 This allowed him access to local gold mines, natural resources, and land which could be used to build Chusonji. During this time, Kyoto was changing. The insei government had taken hold, starting a period in which aristocrats that were members of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism funded many temples. This was probably an influence when Kiyohira was planning the complex at Chusonji. 4 One of forty original buildings, and one of the two extant, the Konjikido is a simple building. The elaborate façade and symbolic meanings of prior temples, such as the Phoenix Hall of Byōdōin, seem to be gone, replaced by a gilt covered façade. The structure itself however, seems to be similar to that of the Nara period,5 and structures like the Hokkedō at Tōdaji. The roof is a simple cone-shape, with a decorative golden sphere at
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