It is thought that Buddhism was first publicly introduced In our country in the year 538 (seventh year of Emperor Kinmei's reign), when King Songmyong of the south-western Korean state of Paekche (Japanese pronunciation: Kudara) presented Buddhist images and sutras to the Japanese court. The Soga clan, possessed of wealth and influence at that time, gave its positive support to the new religion,and Buddhism gradually spread among the imperial house and other influential families. Construction of Japan's first full-scale temple, the Asukadera, was begun in 588 (first year of Emperor Sushun's reign), a half-century after Buddhism's first arrival. Construction of the Asukadera was sponsored by the Soga clan, which had one year previously (in 587) defeated the Mononobe clan in an armed encounter and thus established its own political power more firmly
Already in the years immediately following the initial introduction of Buddhism around the middle of the 6th century, Buddhist images had come to be revered within certain wealthy and Influential households. Following the example of the Asukadera other full-scale religious institutions were in due course to be built by these same families and by the imperial house. According to the Nihon shoki, in 680 (the 9th year of Emperor Tenmu's reign) there were within the capital district (i.e., the Asuka and Fujiwara region) 24 temples, the majority of them semi-private "clan temples" (ujidera) built by certain wealthy families.
With the advent of Tenmu's reign (672-686),there came into being a system of designating certain temples as "official temples" (kanji),for purposes of exercising a certain amount of coordination over the activities of priests and nuns and for purposes of coordinating nationwide Buddhist festivities and observances. The most important kanji were the "Four Great Temples" of the day, namely, Daikandaiji, Yakushiji, Asukadera and Kawaradera. Most of the temples of the time were called after local place names, but in addition bore Chinese-style designations (hogo).
|TAKAMATSUZUKA KOFUN |THE ASUKA TEMPLES |ASUKA AND THE MAN'YOSHU|
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