Horyuji Temple

Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Horyuji was built in 607, in the village of Ikaruga between Asuka and Nara, as a retreat for Prince Regent Shotoku Taishi in his retirement. While regent, Shotoku had established Buddhism as the state religion of Japan. Upon his death, the temple became the center of his memorial cult. The original temple burned down in 670. It was rebuilt by 711, and subsequently experienced a complex history of repairs, reconstructions, and additions from early times down to the present. Due to its political and cultural importance, as well as the sheer luck of its continuing survival after 711, Horyuji gradually came to accumulate in its precincts many treasures from other temples that had been destroyed by fire, earthquake, and war over the succeeding centuries.

Horyuji is divided into an East Precinct and a West Precinct, with the courtyard of each precinct aligned on a north-south axis. Shown in this photo is the southern approach to the West Precinct. The Chu-mon (Middle Gate) is straight ahead, with the Five-Story Pagoda visible to the left.