Ennin 円仁

born 794, Tsuga District, Shimotsuke Province, Japan
died Feb. 24, 864.
He was born as a member of the MIBU 壬生 family.



Ennin - Jigaku Daishi 慈覚大師 / 慈覺大師
(794 – 864)

He was born in Shimotsuke (present day Tochigi Prefecture) and began his religious training at age nine. Later he went to Mt. Hiei and became a disciple of Saichoo, founder of the Tendai sect.

In 838, after two failed attempts due to bad weather, he reached China as one of the student-monks. He departed from the official mission and travelled alone with his servants in various areas of China and Korea, keeping his keen eyes on the local culture. He described everyday life in the temple and the market place and wrote detailed about customs and institutions, administration and politics, like a modern-day ethnographer. His famous diary was translated by Dr. Edwin O. Reischauer, the “The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law” (Nittoo Guhoo Junrei Kooki). He returned to Japan after nine years.

On his return, he established many rituals special to Tendai, the so called “Secret Tendai Teachings” (taimitsu 台密).
He also brought back special rituals to chant the prayers for Buddha Amida, the five-tone nembutsu recitation (jogyodo nembutsu), which is still practised widely in the Tendai communities.

At age 61, he became the third head of the Tendai sect at Mt. Hiei after Saicho. Posthumously the title Jikaku Daishi was installed upon him.

Kentooshi Japanese Envoys to China

Kentooshi Resources Envoys, Material

. TAKO Yakushi 多幸薬師 and the Octopus .
Legend of his statue, told in Meguro, Joju-In 成就院


Daijiji、Daiji-Ji   大慈寺 

Daiji-Ji is formally known as Onodera-san Tenpou-rin-in Daijiji and was built by the priest Gyouki Bosatsu (668-749) in 737 in what is now Iwafune-machi, Tochigi Prefecture. It is a very large temple built on spacious grounds, and it is said that as many as several thousand monks trained there.

It is also famous as the temple where the monk Jikaku Daishi Ennin (793-864) underwent training for six years from 9 to 15 years of age. Ennin later became the fourth Chief Abbot of Daijiji. Furthermore, Daijiji is familiar as having ties with the renowned Heian beauty, Ono no komachi.

Jikaku Daishi Ennin 慈覚大師仁円
The third head of the Tendai sect in Japan, Jikaku Daishi Ennin, travelled to T'ang China as a member of the last Imperial Buddhist envoy. He nurtured the Tendai sect in Japan, and is one of the great figures in whom Japan holds great pride.

When Ennin was about 9 years old, he began his studies at Daiji ji and eventually went to Mt. Hiei, where he became a disciple of Saichoo. At 43 years of age, burning with the desire to complete Tendai mikkyo in Japan, he travelled to T'ang China. His record of his journey, Nittou Guhou Junrei Kouki (The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law 入唐求法巡礼行記) is Japan's first real travel diary, and its value is said to be higher than even Marco Polo's (1254?-1324) Touhou Kenbun Roku (The Travels of Marco Polo).

Ennin gave up personal ambition to devote his life to ceaselessly pursuing pure Buddhist ways for the sake of saving the people and keeping alive the flame of Buddhism in Japan. Even 1200 years later, he continues to move us deeply, and his teachings are still carried on.

Ennin departed for T'ang China, originally for a short period of learning, with strong hopes of completing Tendai mikkyo, as well as of resolving the Enryakuji Miketsu Sanjuh Jou (thirty unsolved problems among monks at Enryakuji). This "short period" eventually became a great adventure spanning nine years.

On crossing to T'ang China, Ennin applied himself to the Buddhist teachings. Unfortunately, the Imperial envoy could not receive permission to go to Mt. Tendai, the source of the Tendai teachings in China. However, Ennin's determination to pursue "the Law" was strong, leading him to eventually part company with the official entourage to continue his travels on his own.

Travelling in a foreign land without proper permits was dangerous and full of unimaginable hardships. Yet, Ennin, his two disciples, Yuishoo and Yuigyoo, and a servant, Yoborono Omaro, were able to reach Mt. Godai, a Buddhist site as sacred as Mt. Tendai. (Wutaishan (五臺山)

After their pilgrimage to Mt. Godai, the group headed for Chang'an, the world's largest city at the time. Their schooling in Chouan, particularly with respect to esoteric Buddhism mikkyo, was highly fruitful, but was, sadly, marred by the death of the disciple Yuigyo at the early age of 32.

Ennin's grief at losing his dear disciple, with whom he had undergone such a difficult journey, was great. He faced yet further hardship in the form of "Kaishoo no haibutsu", the suppression of Buddhism, by the T'ang Emperor Busoo. Despite suffering an endless milieu of life-threatening situations, Ennin's firm belief in his own safe return finally became reality when, after nine and a half years, he set foot again in his home country.

Ennin's account of his journey, Nittou Guhou Junrei Kouki, is, as noted above, the first travel book written by a Japanese. It has great value as a historical document, and is now widely known outside of Japan.

Upon returning to Japan, Ennin applied what he had learned in T'ang China to spreading and nurturing Saichou's Tendai Buddhism. Always with hopes of lasting peace in Japan, he continued his work to save the souls of the people by spreading his teachings and building many temples. This also contributed to the advancement of regional culture. It was also during this time that Ennin became the fourth Chief Abbot of Daijiji.

At the age of 61, Ennin was appointed the third head of the Tendai sect at Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. For the ten years until he passed away of fever at the age of 71, he devoted his life to the continuation of Saichou's ideals and the growth of Enryakuji.

Two years after his death, in 866 (year 8 of the Jookan Era) on July 4th, the Imperial Court bestowed upon Ennin the rank of Hooin Daikashoo and the holy name Jikaku Daishi.
This name and the name Dengyoo Daishi given to Saichoo were the first holy names given in Japan.

The well-known student of Japan, Dr. Edwin O. Reischauer (1910-1990; former US ambassador to Japan), is also famous for his research on Ennin. Dr. Reischauer rates Nittou Guhou Junrei Kouki extremely highly. In his thesis, he even goes so far as to state that of the world’s three great travel books―Genjou’s (602-664) Saiyuuki (Journey to the West), Marco Polo’s Touhou Kenbun Roku and Ennin’s Nittou Guhou Junrei Kouki―Nittou Guhou Junrei Kouki has incomparable historical value.

Ennin's Diary
Ennin's Travels in T`ANG CHINA

Onodera 2247, Iwafune-machi,
Shimotsuga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture,
Japan 329-4314

大 慈 寺 , 小野寺山


Tendai and Ennin

The first Zasu or leader of the sect after Saicho, and Abbot of Hiei-zan Enryakuji (the chief temple of the order), was the monk Ennin. Born into the Mibu clan from the province of Shimotsuke, Ennin’s chief contribution to the development of the Tendai-shu came from a nine-year pilgrimage to China, where he both studied at Mt. T’ien T’ai, as well as received further esoteric teachings and instruction from the same schools where Kukai received the mikkyo rites of the Shingon school.

Returning to Japan, Ennin developed Tendai esoteric ritual beyond the legacy received from Saicho, establishing the system of Tendai-specific esoteric rites known today as Taimitsu. Another significant practice which Ennin brought back from China was the chanting of the Nembutsu, the devotional repetition of the phrase, “Homage to Amida Buddha,” as a means of generating merit and ensuring rebirth in the “Western Paradise” of Amida Buddha, where conditions for the attainment of Enlightenment and Nirvana are optimal.
The practice of both Taimitsu and Nembutsu thus became salient features of Tendai Buddhism in Japan.

History of Tendai Buddhism


Five-tone nembutsu recitation

Ritual practices conducted at the Tendai center on Mt. Hiei employed Amida Buddha as an object of worship. Tendai practice based on the Lotus Sutra was also intermingled with the nembutsu practice, which in this context refers to visualized meditation on Amida Buddha.

Saicho's disciple Ennin (794-864) continued this trend when he went to T'ang China to study with Fa-chao on Mt. Wu-t'ai, and brought back to Japan a practice of five-tone nembutsu recitation. This practice was incorporated into the "Constantly Walking Samadhi" (jogyo zanmai), a ninety-day walking meditation of the Tendai school in which the practitioner circumambulates an image of Amida while chanting the nembutsu in order to visualize Amida Buddha. (Fukuda, 257-263 & Ando, 191-93) "Constantly Walking Samadhi" (jogyo zanmai) is one of the four forms of samadhi described in the Mo-ho-chih-kuan.

T'ien-t'ai synthesized the various types of meditation referred to in the sutras and classified them into these four categories:
to sit in meditation for a period of ninety days without engaging in any other practices (joza zanmai);
to walk around the statue of Amida Buddha reciting the nembutsu for ninety days (jogyo zanmai);
to engage in the two practices of walking around the meditation platform and seated meditation(hodo zanmai);
and to practice continious meditation (higyo hiza zanmai).

On Mt. Hiei, Fa-chao's five-tone nembutsu became known as the jogyodo nembutsu because it was cerfamed in a hall specially constructed for the constantly walking samadhi, called the jogyodo. Tendai monks customarily recited the Lotus Sutra in the morning and performed nembutsu practice in the evening.

This was the basic form of religious practice on Mt. Hiei during the Heian period (794-1192). Ennin's introduction of the five-tone nembutsu was also significant in that it marked the introduction of the recited nembutsu to Japan.


Shangjing Longquanfu,
the Capital of the Bohai (Parhae) State, Korea

As we have seen, there was also a P’o-hai Inn in Teng-chou, presumably for embassies going from and to that East Manchurian kingdom. The people of P’o-hai were Tungusic ancestors of the later Manchu Emperors of China and like the Koreans were busily engaged at this time in creating a small replica of the T’ang Empire in their far northern forests.

— E. O. Reischauer, Ennin’s Travels in T’ang China, 1955, p.280.

Ennin, a Japanese Buddhist priest, traveled in China to study Buddhism from 838 AD to 847 AD. In his travel diary, he recorded that there was a Bohai Inn in Dengzhou on the coast of Shandeng Peninsula and that a trading vessel from Bohai was anchored near the coast of the peninsula.

The Bohai (Parhae in Korean) State was a kingdom that existed from 698 AD to 926 AD in the northeastern part of today’s China. It was formed by the Tungusic people in association with the refugees from Koguryo, which had fallen in 668. It actively imported Chinese culture and political systems and boasted a high standard of civilization. At a time when it was bringing tribute to China, it also dispatched many envoys to Japan across the sea.


Wu Tai Shan is widely known not only to the people of China but also to Buddhists in Japan, India, Sri Lanks, Burma, Tibet and Nepal. Wu Tai's Buddhism is indissolubly tied up with that of Japan and had a great influence on that country. Seeking after the Buddhist truth, such famous monks as Ennin and Ryoosen in the Tang Dynasty, and Choonen and Seisan in the Song Dynasty made long pilgrimages to Wu Tai Shan. The Tantric master Amoghavajra also came to meditate here.

Look at some nice pictures of Wu Tai Shan


Chinese Anthropology in Japan

The Japanese ethnological study of China began long before the establishment of anthropology towards the end of the last century. Interest in China has been important among the Japanese people in general. The origins of ethnographic documentation of China by the Japanese might be traced back to the diary of Ennin, a Buddhist monk who stayed in China during the Tang dynasty for ten years (838-847). The diary can be evaluated as a piece of good ethnography for it covers not only his observation of Buddhist temples, rituals and priests, but also geography, folk customs, and the institutional aspects of economics, administration, politics and so on.

It is valuable not only because it is a rare record of that time, but also because it is a vivid sketch of the scene that he encountered. He had the eyes of an observer or sojourner rather than of a traveller. He spent more pages depicting the particular than the general. To this extent, the quality of his description is closer to that of a monograph, even though it is not a general description of one community. I think the reasons for its closeness to ethnography are the result of the similarity in his interests and situation with those of the anthropological fieldworker.

He stayed long enough, he learned the local language, he had a strong curiosity about the strange, he was interested in process, rather than fixed rules, and, instead of merging into the local society like his colleague Ensai, his identity, as a Japanese, remained that of a foreigner.

Chinese Anthropology in Japan: Suenari Michio

The Dates of the Life of Ennin (Nenpyo 年表)

天台宗 祖師先徳鑽仰大法会
- reference source : tendai.or.jp/daihoue/profile -


- #ennin #jikaku -


happy said...

That's really interesting resource! I have written one post about Japan, but I decided to make it about Japan travel, I'm really interested in culture, but I have not enough knowledge yet:)
But I enjoyed reading! Thank you!

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho traveling in Oku -

Risshakuji 立石寺 Risshaku-Ji, Yamadera 山寺
in Yamagata

Founded by the great priest Jikaku, this temple was known for the absolute tranquility of its holy compound.

. shizukesa ya iwa ni shimi-iru semi no koe .

Gabi Greve said...

Hoozooji 宝蔵寺 Hozo-Ji
栃木県宇都宮市大通り四丁目 - Utsunomiya town

founded by Ennin


Gabi Greve said...

Aizu Tohoku Fudo Temples

龍興寺 - 離悩不動 - rinoo Fudo - to part from troubles
大刀剱不動 - Fudo with a large sword
Ryuukooji 龍興寺 Ryuko-Ji
会津美里町中町 - Aizu, Misato

Founded in 848 by priest 慈覚大師.
Famous for its lotus pond and a lotus sutra with each letter on a lotus pedestal 一字蓮台法華経.

Gabi Greve said...

Fukushima, Aizu

高田不動 - Takada Fudo
Jidoosha Fudo 自動車不動 "Fudo in a car"

Nr. 33 会津薬師寺 - 高田不動尊 Takada Fudo Son
Aizu Yakushi-Ji - Takada Fudo Son

The temple started out humbly as a sanctuary called 千寿院 Senju-In in the year 779.
Later in 848 Priest Jigaku Daishi 慈覚大師 Ennin built the first temple.
In 1190 円鑁沙門 rebuilt the temple and added the Yakushi Hall 薬師堂, giving name of "Yakushi Temple" 薬師寺 to the complex.

Gabi Greve said...

Aikyoo-In 愛敬院 Aikyo-In
駒場滝不動尊 Komabataki Waterfall Fudo
滝入不動尊 / Komaba no taki 駒場の滝 Komaba Waterfall

30 愛敬院 本山修験宗 - 駒場滝不動尊 Komabataki Fudo
Aikyoo-In 愛敬院 Aikyo-In Komabazan 駒場山

Miyagi Fudo Pilgrimage Nr. 30

The statue of Fudo Myo-O has been carved by Jigaku Daishi more than 1100 years ago. He built the temple to protect the region from evil influence in the unlucky "Demon Gate" (鬼門 kimon) Northern direction. He carved the statue and placed it into a cave of the cliffs around the waterfall.

Gabi Greve said...

Toonoo shichi Kannon 遠野七観音 Seven Kannon Temples of Tono

These seven temples have been built by Ennin.

He took one huge tree and carved seven statues out of it.
According to legend, Ennin carved them near the well Nanaido 七井戸 at the village Zawanokuchi 沢の口部落 and purified them there.

Gabi Greve said...

Saikooji 西光寺 Saiko-Ji
at Akiu Hot Spring

Ōtaki-11 Akiumachi Baba, Taihaku-ku, Sendai-shi
Priest Ennin tried to built a temple at the mountain 長嶺山 near the waterfall, but could not succeed the first time. He continued his pilgrimage in Tohoku, toward the mountains of Dewa and in860 founded the famous Yamadera 山寺.
On the way back he was again stopped by the powerful energy of the waterfall and the forest and this time carved a statue of Fudo Myo-O himself. He established this temple as the "Oku no In" of Yamadera.

Gabi Greve said...

Seiryuzan Zuigan-ji 青龍山 瑞巌寺
Godai-do Hall 五大堂
founded by Ennin in 828.

Gabi Greve said...

Kannonji 観音寺 Kannon-Ji
宮城県気仙沼市本町 1-4-16 / 1 Chome-4-16 Motomachi, Kesennuma-shi

In 850 慈覚大師 Ennin Jigaku Daishi built a small hall and founded a temple near the beach, Kaigan Kannon-Ji 海岸山観音寺.

Gabi Greve said...

Iitaka Kannon 飯高観音

Ena Valley in Gifu 恵那峡 - 岐阜県

One of the three big Kannon of Japan

Venerated to prevent calamities and fires.
The statue has been carved by Jigaku Daishi 慈覚大師.

Gabi Greve said...

Founder of temple

Tamonin 多聞院 Tamon-In
1 Chome-14-16 Tsuchizakiminatominami, Akita city

and his disciple
Ane, An-E 安慧 (795 - 868)
student of Ennin Jigaku Daishi at Mount Hieizan.

Gabi Greve said...

Akita, Oga Hanto
He founded

Nr. 10 赤神山 / 幸福山 - 吉祥院 - 波切不動尊 Namikiri Fudo
Kisshoo-In 吉祥院 Kissho-In

Akagami Jinja 赤神神社

Gabi Greve said...

Tales from Uji; Chapter 9; pgs. 311-314

During the reign of the emperor Tang Wuzong, practicing Buddhism and any other religion was difficult. In fact, the document describes (whether it is historically accurate or not) a Tye-Dying castle in which Buddhist were hung and their blood was drained from their body for the use of dying cloth.
Even if the statement may be false, the brutality of the government was definitely expresesed in a way that was definitely terrorizing. Eventually, Jikaku fled the terrible land, and then soon afterwards spread Buddhism to Japan and strengthened its hold there. Remember, the story is a folktale, so some occurrances may seem ridiculous and far-fetched, but that is the essence of these tales.

The topic of the source is Buddhist monk Jikaku's (Ennin) expeditions throughout China during and after the reign of Tang Wuzong.
During the time of his rule, Tang Wuzong created a policy that severly suppressed foreign religions such as Zoroastrianism, Christianity, but most importantly Buddhism. As a result of the new law, many Buddhist monasteries were pillaged and attacked by the government. The author of this source is unknown; however, the source was written in Japan.

The source was created from about 1070-1200 CE, from about two to four centuries after the national policy was carried through. The intended audience of the passage is most likely Japanese Buddhists who revere the monk Jikaku in order to place as an even holier man than he might have been.

The author wishes to glorify Jikaku in the folktale as a significant holy man. The piece of work can be most likely placed into the group of religious documents. The missing voice is a Chinese Buddhist that can place his perspective into the document that question the Japanese Buddhist belief.


Gabi Greve said...

and the full story of the

75 - the Dyeing Castle
by Japanese Tales
By Royall Tyler


Gabi Greve said...

and the full story of the

75 - the Dyeing Castle
by Japanese Tales
By Royall Tyler


Gabi Greve said...

Founder of temple
Mootsuji 毛越寺 Motsu-Ji in Hiraizumi, Tohoku


Gabi Greve said...

a legend from Tokyo

When Jigaku Daishi set out for a pilgrimage to the East he stayed first some time at 浅草寺 the Asakusa Temple. Once day an old man with white hair appeared and told him, that in the East there was 霊地 a sacred place where he should place a statue of himself. So he prepared a statue and set off to the East. Suddenly he saw auspicious clouds all in one place and then a 青竜 green dragon in the clouds.
So Ennin founded a temple here for the dragon. The dragon was happy about this and then his features dissolved again in the sky.
But from time to time there were 竜燈 dragon lights in the area now.
more about
zui-un moyo 瑞雲文様 auspicious cloud art motives


Gabi Greve said...

Ennin He made Banji and Banzaburo his disciples.
At 二口峠 Futakuchi Pass

Gabi Greve said...

tokko, dokko 独鈷 と伝説 Legends about the Vajra Thunderbolt

Gabi Greve said...

Statue of Yakushi Nyorai at the temple

醫王山 / 薬王山 Yakuozan 遍照院 Henjo-In 三念寺 Sannen-Ji