Nanzenji Temple @ Kyoto

The koi is a traditional fish and any temple that keeps fish respects the connection between tradition and the need to preserve culture and Japanese history.

Rinzai Zen was introduced to Japan by the Chinese priest Ensai in 1191 and emphasizes the use of koans, paradoxical puzzles or questions that help the practitioner to overcome the normal boundaries of logic.

This is one of my favorite temples and not known on the beat and path. Nanzenji is a former aristocratic retirement villa that was turned into a temple on the death of its owner. The Emperor Kameyama (1249-1305) built his detached palace here in 1264. He later became a student of the Zen Master Busshin Daimin Kokushi, and he dedicated the palace as a Zen temple in 1291.

Nanzenji went on to become one of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto and throughout its history, the abbot of Nanzenji was always chosen as the best Rinzai Zen Master in each period.

The 15th-century Onin Civil War demolished the original temple buildings, but some were rebuilt during the 16th century. The temple’s large entrance gate (Sanmon) was completed in 1628.

In Japanese symbolism the koi represents perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. The strongest koi swims upstream until it reaches the final waterfall, where it vaults into the mists and becomes a water dragon.