Early Edo Period Scripture Repository at World Heritage Nishi Hongan-ji in Kyoto (HDR Photo)

Revolving Cylindrical Vault「Tenrinzō, てんりんぞう, 転輪蔵」

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Housing the entire collection of Buddhist sutras and scripts published by Tenkai, this small structure contains a hexagonal revolving bookcase which is where the building gets its name. Tenrinzō 「てんりんぞう, 転輪蔵」in English means “revolving cylindrical vault”. Tenkai was a Buddhist who was the highest ranking monk of his time and worked for the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Nishi Hongan-ji’s Scripture Repository
「Nishi Hongan-ji No Tenrinzō, 西本願寺の転輪蔵」

Hongan-ji, Kyoto: Scripture Repository (HDR Photo)

NIKON D5200 (18mm, f/8, 1/100 sec, ISO100)
Tenrinzo at Nishi Hongan-ji, Kyoto: Scripture Repository (HDR Photo)

This scripture repository lies within the grounds of the Nishi Hongan-ji 「Nishi Hongan-ji, 西本願寺」 complex – one of 17 UNESCO World Heritages in Kyoto.

entry to the building is closed to the public, but the interior sounds amazing: an 8 sided bookcase with statues of the 8 celestial guardians of Buddhism at the foot of each; porcelain tiles lining the lower inner walls; 3 statues of ancient Chinese Buddhist figures.

The building is small and unasuming, dwarfed by the massive Amida-dō and Goei-dō halls just a few metres to the south.

Quick facts about Nishi Hongan-ji’s Scripture Repository

  • The scrolls and books were delivered from Edo (Tokyo) to Hongan-ji in 1648, purchased from the Tokugawa Shogunate
  • The building’s construction was completed in 1678 by master carpenter Izumori Munetoshi
  • Dimensions: 9.6m long and wide, 11.5m high
  • Houses 6,323 scrolls and books stored in 665 boxes
  • Metal orb ornament on top is said to have been made by melting 1000 silver mirrors together
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