Nara’s Tōdai-ji: Temple and State as One 奈良的政治機器東大寺

The history of Nara is full of fascinating power struggle that started in the 8th century. Tōdai-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple which marks that period of Japan, and the temple was awarded one of the eight World Heritage historical sites in Nara. To make visiting this landmark even more interesting, the way to Tōdai-ji through Nara Park is packed with deer that will chill with you as long as you are being non-intrusive and respectful.

奈良的歷史充滿古老年代的政治鬥爭,東大寺紀錄了那個年代的日本歷史,是奈良世界遺產的八個歷史遺址之一,拜訪東大寺不只是看耐人尋味的歷史,穿過奈良公園到東大寺的路上還可以一路看小鹿

 

Egg Yolk Cheesy Toast at Marufuku Coffee 丸福咖啡自信的蛋黃起士烤吐司

Before hopping on a train to Nara, we dropped by a classy coffee shop right by the Nipponbashi station in Osaka for breakfast.

Marufuku Coffee (丸福咖啡) is a retro coffee shop founded in 1934. Marufuku operates twenty-some branches in Japan. The Sennichimae shop in Osaka is the original. Its antique furniture and coffee roaster create a nostalgic space.

跳上火車從大阪去奈良之前,我們來到日本橋附近的丸福咖啡吃早餐。丸福咖啡是大阪有名的復古經典咖啡廳,昭和九年 (西元1934年)就開始營業,在日本有二十幾家分店,千日前這家是本店,古老傢俱和烘培機有濃濃懷舊風格。

Marufuku is famous for rich coffee with its deep roasting technique and this legendary cheesy toast on the breakfast menu. I am not a coffee drinker, so I cannot comment on the coffee. The grilled cheese though. Please, please try the grilled cheese. I call it grilled cheese for lack of a better term. This signature item of Marufuku is a mixure of cheese and egg yolk melted on thick and fluffy toast. The edge of the bread was toasted and crispy. The savory cheese and egg yolk mix was like nothing I’ve had before. The egg and ham sandwich was also good, crispy outside and soft inside.

丸福咖啡有名的是職人的深度烘培,和雜誌有報導的丸福自信之作烤起士吐司。我不喝咖啡所以無法了解這個咖啡香,但這個丸福自信的焗烤起士吐司真的是必點!香軟牛奶厚片吐司邊邊烤得酥脆,上面是一層焗烤過的蛋黃和起士,看似平凡但是好好吃!火腿蛋也大受好評。

Tōdai-ji: The Center of “Temple and State”  

A 35-minute train ride later, we made it to Nara. Our first stop was Tōdai-ji (東大寺).

Originally built in 752 AD, Tōdai-ji is a Buddhist temple with political importance. This temple was burned down in 1180 and 1567. The current temple and Buddha you see now were rebuilt from the 17th to early 19th century. The 25-meter high main gate was rebuilt in 1203 AD. I was in awe of this wooden gate built 800 years ago.

跳上火車,三十五分鐘的車程,從大阪來到奈良,我們的第一站是東大寺。東大寺是西元752年建成的佛教寺廟,在 1180 年和 1567 年兩度被燒毀,現在看到的寺廟和大佛是十七到十九世紀之間修復的,二十五公尺高的南大門則是 八百年前建的超高木造建築。

 

Chinese Buddhism reached Japan through Baekje, Korea in the 6th century. Over the years Buddhism heavily influenced the culture, literature and art in Japan, but initially Buddhism was essentially a political machine.

Before the Taika Reforms (大化の改新) in 645 AD, rich families held political power and the emperor did not have much real political control. The most influential family at the time was the Soga clan (蘇我氏). Then a prince worked with Fujiwara no Kamatari (藤原鎌足) to orchestrate a coup. The coup ended the era of the Soga clan, and the Fujiwara guy who helped the prince overthrow the Soga clan became the founder of the Fujiwara clan. Emperor Kōtoku (孝德天皇) was inaugurated. He initiated the Taika Reforms, which was about creating a centralized political structure that mimics the system in China.

Emperor Kōtoku pushed for Buddhism to become a state religion. Back then Buddhism was not for everyday people; it was for the ruling class and the elites. There was no separation of church (temple!?) and state. The central government promoted Buddhism, appointed lead monks, and sanctioned properties for temples. These properties or estates are private, tax-free, and often autonomous. They are called shōen (莊園). Buddhist leaders of the temples manage their own properties and train their own military force.

漢傳佛教在西元六世紀的飛鳥時代時期經由百濟被引入日本,佛教影響日本文化、文學、藝術很深,但一開始佛教基本上是政治工具又變成政治實體。

大化革新之前,天皇沒有實權,政治權力都由貴族掌控,最有權勢的家族是蘇我氏,後來有個王子串通藤原鎌足發動政變,蘇我氏被剷除,這個藤原變成藤原氏的第一人。孝德天皇即位,推行中央集權的政治改革,也就是大化革新。孝德天皇把佛教立為國教,當時佛教是有錢人在信的,政府提倡佛教、指派僧侶、撥地給寺廟,寺廟擁有的地是私人的,政府不課稅,通常是由寺廟自己管,稱為莊園,僧侶有莊園又有軍隊,完全政教不分。

 

In the early 8th century, Emperor Shōmu (聖武天皇) decided to rely on Buddhism to further centralize state control. He ordered every province to build a provincial temple. These temples are called Kokubun-ji (国分寺) for monks and kokubunni-ji (国分尼寺) for nuns. Under his order, Japan built more than 60 temples. Tōdai-ji was the lead temple of all of them.

Emperor Shōmu’s propaganda was that the country will thrive if temples thrive; the country is doomed if the temples are doomed. In 743 AD, he ordered the construction of a 49-feet / 15-meter tall buddha for Tōdai-ji. This gigantic buddha took seven years to build. The construction of all the buildings and statues of Tōdai-ji took some 40 years to complete.

八世紀初,聖武天皇用佛教來加深中央集權,告訴大家蓋超浮誇的廟就可以國泰民安,下令所有省份都要蓋一座廟,僧侶的廟叫國分寺,尼姑的廟叫國分尼寺,在聖武天皇令下,日本建了六十幾座國分寺,東大寺是位階最高的總寺院。西元 743 年,聖武天皇下令建造一座十五公尺高的大佛,蓋這大佛花了七年,東大寺總共花了四十年來蓋。

Did the people benefit from a thriving temple? Of course not.

It took a lot of political struggle and wars for Emperor Shōmu to solidify his power. By the time he wanted to build these temples to strengthen the Buddhist state, the government was broke. In order to pay for these superfluous temples, he revoked the land ownership policies under Taika Reforms and started privatizing land to encourage farming and raise his tax base. While ordinary people paid taxes, the elites and prominent temples demanded tax exemption. As a result, income inequality worsened. Rich families and temples got richer; everyday people were screwed over.

Like many other temples, Tōdai-ji gradually evolved into a powerful political, economic, and military entity. Politicized clergy runs Nara Buddhist establishments. A few decades later, in 794 AD, the monarchies and the clergy became so powerful and influential that Emperor Kanmu (桓武天皇) had to permanently relocate Japan’s capitol from Nara to Kyoto to severe ties between temple and state, marginalize the clergy, and resist their intervention in governmental affairs.

東大寺蓋了真的有國泰民安嗎?當然沒有。

聖武天皇經過一番政軍大亂鬥才鞏固政權,想蓋寺廟蓋大佛這時候,當然很缺錢,缺錢就只好多徵稅,把大化革新的土地公有制改了,開始私有化土地來鼓勵開墾然後課稅,平民老百姓乖乖繳稅,有權有勢的貴族和僧侶關說莊園免稅,最後貧富差距越來越大,想必民應該是沒有安。僧侶和寺廟權勢越來越大,常常干涉國政,最後天皇甚至因此決定遷都京都來架空僧侶。

Tōdai-ji is situated right in Nara Park. The temple is mostly free of admission except for the Great Buddha Hall and two other buildings. Due to time constraint and the fact that we did not feel like fighting the crowd and paying an admission, we skipped the main temple and the gigantic buddha and moved on to Kasuga-taisha.

因為時間不多又懶得人擠人跟付門票,我們沒有進去看大佛,直接前往春日大社。

 

 

 

Marufuku Coffee Sennichimae 丸福咖啡
大阪市中央区千日前1-9-1
1 Chome-9-1 Sennichimae, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0074, Japan
Near Nipponbashi station (Osaka subway)
8:00 am – 11:00 pm (closed on January 1)
marufukucoffeeten.com
Website in Japanese only. English menu available in store.
Egg yolk cheese toast 680 yen. Coffee around 560 yen.

 

Tōdai-ji 東大寺
Free except for the Great Buddha Hall and two other buildings
Great Buddha Hall Admission: 600 yen
9:30 am – 5:30 pm from April to October
9:30 am – 5:00 pm from November to March
todaiji.or.jp

 

One thought on “Nara’s Tōdai-ji: Temple and State as One 奈良的政治機器東大寺

  1. Pingback: Kyoto: Fall Colors at Tōfuku-ji 京都東福寺紅葉 | Near and Far

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