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Temple 52, Taisan-ji

The Temple of the Big Mountain

Temple 52, Taisan-ji

Taisan-ji is temple No. 52 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, or Henro. Located in the outskirts of Matsuyama, it has wonderful views of the Shikoku Mountains on clear days. The main building is one of the more spectacular on the pilgrimage.

What to see

The approach to Taisan-ji is very long. After passing through a gate on the main road, you pass through a pleasant residential area of traditional homes before arriving at the main Niō gate, rebuilt in 1305. From here the road winds up through a forest. The temple office is in a compound to the right. The main temple complex is up a steep slope and some rather gruelling steps, topped by another magnificent gate.

An unforgettable feature of Taisan-ji is the skirted bell tower with its paintings of heaven and hell. Hell is really shocking!

In the 6th century, Prince Shōtoku Taishi visited this site and there’s a statue of him in the Prince Shōtoku hall which young people pray to and touch in order to pass entrance examinations for school.

Behind Taisan-ji is a path lined with Buddhist images leading up to Mt. Kyōgamori topped with a large statue of Kannon. The path goes down to Takahama, the port where the legendary founder of the temple took refuge from a storm.

History

Legend has it that Taisan-ji was founded in 586. In 739, Gyōki enshrined the principal image of the eleven-faced Kannon at the request of Emperor Shomu, and in 749, and built the seven hall complex in its present location. The present principal image was dates back to the late Heian period. The present main hall, a National Treasure, is the third generation, and was rebuilt in 1305 by the Kōno clan, the provincial governor of Iyo, and prospered under the patronage of the Katō clan, lord of Matsuyama Castle.

Legends

The main hall was said to have been built in one day by a merchant who was miraculously delivered from a storm while sailing with a cargo on the Inland Sea. In the year 586 in the Asuka period, a man called Chōja from Kyūshū was on his way to Ōsaka by boat when he encountered a great storm off Takahama. When he prayed to Kannon, Goddess of Mercy, a light shone from the top of a nearby mountain, calming the storm and allowing him to reach the shore. When he went to the top of the mountain where the light shone, he found a small temple (today’s Okuno-in) enshrining the eleven-faced Kannon. To honour the deity who saved his life, he immediately returned to Kyūshū, gathered craftsmen, prepared the wood, and arrived at the port of Takahama in one day, and built the temple overnight.

Information

Name in Japanese: 太山寺

Pronunciation: taisan-ji

Address: 1730 Taisanjicho, Matsuyama, Ehime 799-2662

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