Shoren-in is one of the five Monzeki temple of Kyoto, whose priests were from the Imperial family until the Meiji area. Built in 1150, its name comes from Shorenbo which was a residence of priests on Mt. Hiei. At its peak Shoren-in was much larger until the Tokugawa shogunate seized part of its land and buildings to make Chion-in. It also had influence on other temples; for instance the priests of the much larger Hongan-ji had to enter priesthood in Shoren-in before being officially recognized. Shoren-ji also has an important place in Japanese calligraphy, for one of its priest designed a new handwriting style that merged both the Chinese and Japanese influences. Like many temples in Kyoto, Shoren-in was partially destroyed during the Onin war. More recently in 1993 another building (the tea room "Kobun-tei") was destroyed by fire, only to be quickly rebuilt in 1995. The garden were apparently originally designed by So-ami during the Muromachi era (1336~1573). Nowadays strong influences of the Edo period can be seen, so that it is hard to say how the original garden looked like.
The circuit of the visit is nicely explained in a leaflet you receive at the temple's entrance. The first stop is the study, a large tatami room that overlooks the garden. It is one of the most interesting places in the temple. The visit continues with the other buildings surrounding the pond, until one reaches the main hall (which is in fact the smallest building!). From the hondo one can see a large featureless garden in front of a larger hall. This last hall can also be visited; at its extremity one has to back track up to the temple entrance. There, putting one's shoes back on, a stroll in the garden can start after passing under a (very) low bridge. Walking around the garden, one can see the pond and its carps, the stone bridge made of a simple arch, climb up to the Kobun-tei tea room and head back to the entrance by going around the hondo and the featureless garden. As with most zen gardens in Kyoto the best time to visit is in autumn or late May to early June, when the blooming of rhododendrons dot the green landscape with red, orange and pink spots.
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Nearby: Chion-in 知恩院 (210m), Awata-jinja 粟田神社 (210m), Chōraku-ji 長楽寺 (420m), Namikawa Cloisonné Museum 並河靖之七宝記念館 (490m), Daiun-in 大雲院 (630m), Murin-an 無鄰菴 (640m), Yasaka-jinja 八坂神社 (650m), Evening tea ceremony 冬の夜の茶会 (660m), Dainei-ken 大寧軒 (680m), Konchi-in 金地院 (690m),...
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Inside Kyoto, Marutake, そうだ京都
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 東山, Higashiyama, 青蓮院, Shoren-in, temple, 寺院, 仏閣