Kyōzō (Sutra Repository) (Important Cultural Property, Closed to the Public)
Located southeast of the Mieidō, the Kyōzō was constructed in 1621, the same year as the Sanmon. The architecture is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese styles and presents a unique stylistic beauty. In contrast to the subdued exterior, the interior is alive with color and the ceiling and wall paintings by the Kanō School are precious. Also, in the middle is an octagonal sutra wheel which contains the Sung Chinese edition of the entire Buddhist scriptural canon in six thousand volumes, donated by the second Tokugawa shogun, Hidetada. It is said that if you turn the sutra wheel once, you can gain the same benefits as if you actually read all of the sutras.
Inside the Sutra Repository
The Ōhōjō was built in 1641 and is known throughout Kyoto as one of the most famous examples of shoin-zukuri architecture. With the fifty-four tatami mat-sized Tsuru-no-ma (Crane Room) in the center, the Ōhōjō consists of ten rooms, including the Jōdan-no-ma (Upper), Chūdan-no-ma (Middle) and Gedan-no-ma (Lower) rooms, as well as the Matsu-no-ma (Pine Room). Each of the rooms exudes a splendid air, as all of the fusuma-e (sliding door paintings) have been done by the Kano School.
Built in 1641, the same year as the Ōhōjō (Large Guest House), this building is also known throughout Kyoto as one of the most famous examples of shoin-zukuri architecture. The Kohōjō consists of six rooms and are all decorated with fusuma-e (sliding door paintings) done by the Kano School. Compared to the Ōhōjō, the Kohōjō is immersed in a light, tranquil air, and the contrast to the Ōhōjō is quite striking. The Kohōjō is surrounded by the Hōjō Garden, which exudes the moods of the four seasons.
With a height of 3.3 meters and a diameter of 2.7 meters, this bell weighs seventy tons. The size of the bell at Chion-in places it alongside the bells at Hōkōji (also in Kyoto) and Tōdaiji (in Nara). This massive bell was cast in 1636, during the time of Ōyo Reigan, the 32nd chief high priest of Chion-in. At first, according to legend, no matter how many times the rings from which the bell was hung were recast, they could not support its weight. However, one day, Masamune and Muramasa, who were master swordsmiths, came to worship at the temple. Hearing this story, they combined their efforts to cast a set of rings, and it was said that the bell could finally be hung.
The Sight of the Bell on New Year’s Eve
(This giant bell is rung in a unique way)
Also, the tower which supports this bell was built in 1678, during the time of Genyo Manmu, the 38th chief high priest of Chion-in. The tower has a quiet, yet dignified design, which makes it suited to house one of the largest bells in Japan. This bell is only rung during the memorial services for Hōnen (the Gyoki Daie, held in April) and on New Year’s Eve, where it is rung 108 times. On New Year’s Eve, the bell is struck by a team consisting of one leader with sixteen assistants, and the sound of Chion-in’s bell on New Year’s Eve is one of the poetic charms of winter in Kyoto.