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Shitennoji temple and Prince Shotoku

In 593 Prince Shotoku ordered the construction of Shitennoji temple which is the oldest officially administered Buddhist temple in Japan . It was the Soga Clan which wanted Japan to adopt Buddhism, a newly arrived, developed religion from China . The Mononobe Clan favoured the ancient Japanese religion. Prince Shotoku supported Soga and achieved his victory by praying to the Four Heavenly Kings, the soldiers of Buddha. The temple was organized in four parts. There were the institutions of religion and education, welfare, hospital, and pharmacy. Today, all four are still active and two major religions, Buddhism and Shintoism, coexist peacefully and complement one another.

The Four Heavenly Kings are protectors of Buddhist law and humankind. They are depicted as warriors wearing armour, carrying military weapons, and standing with one foot crushing a demon beast. Jikokuten with a sword is the guardian of the east and maintains the world. Zochoten with a spear guards the south and relieves people of their suffering. Komokuten with a writing brush in his right hand and a sutra scroll in his left guards the west and sees through evil. Tamonten with a treasure in his left hand and a spear in his right guards the north and listens to prayers and protects holy places. Jikokuten is green, Zochoten white, Komokuten red, and Tamonten blue.

Prince Shotoku was the second child of Emperor Tachibana no Toyohi and Imperial Princess Anahobe. It is said that as a child he could listen to ten people talking to him at once and that he was able to predict the future. At the age of 18, he became Crown Prince and Regent for Empress Suiko. This position gave him de facto control of the Japanese government. In 604 Prince Shotoku issued his Seventeen-Article Constitution, which established a moral basis and political foundation for a sound Japanese government for the next 1400 years. Before his death in 622 Prince Shotoku had built 46 temples throughout the Nara-Osaka region .




























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