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Home » 2. Kami (Deities) » Combinatory Kami
Sekisan Myōjin
Literally, "Red-Mountain Shining-Deity," one of the "protectors of the dharma" (gohō;) in the Tendai sect of Buddhism. While studying Buddhism in China, the Japanese monk Ennin underwent practice at the Shandong temple Sekizan Hokke-in (Ch. Chishan Fahua Yuan) for the purpose of receiving a personal tutelary deity, and in return vowed to build a meditation hall upon his return to Japan. The hall was in fact constructed by his disciples in 864, and later moved to Nishi-Sakamoto (in northeast Kyoto) in 888, the date representing the first worship of Sekizan Myōjin in Japan.

This event, however, is not recounted in the standard "Ennin's Journey to the West," and since a "red mountain" deity did not exist in China at that time, it seems likely that the new deity was created against the background of conflict between the Tendai sect's two branches, the "mountain" branch (with headquarters at Mt. Hiei's Enryakuji) and the "temple" branch (headquartered at Miidera [Onjōji]). Namely, since Onjōji already had its own tutelary deity Shinra Myōjin, Mt. Hiei's temple Enryakuji responded by adopting the tutelary Sekizan Myōjin .

According to current research, the existence of the temple Sekizan Zen'in can be dated from the latter half of the tenth century. Most images of Sekizan Myōjin depict him as attired in red Chinese costume or cloak, with three-peaked crown and holding bow and arrow. From the medieval period on, the deity's Buddhist counterpart or "essence" (honji; see honji suijaku) was identified as the boddhisattva Jizō (Sk. Kstigarbha), and a process of assimilation occurred whereby he became identified as well with the deities Taizan Fukun (a Chinese tutelary of human destiny), Mutō Tenjin (a deity of pestilence identified with Susanoo), and Gozu Tennō. In contrast to the shrine Hiyoshi Taisha which guarded Mt. Hiei's eastern flank, Sekizan Myōjin was worshiped as a guardian of the mountain's western flank. Sekizan Myōjin was also venerated as tutelary of Injō Nembutsu (a school of nenbutsu "singing"), and was also later adopted as one of the cult of sanjūbanshin ("thirty guardian kami"). At present, Sekizan Myōjin is enshrined at the Sekizan Zen'in within the grounds of the Shūgakuin Detached Palace in Kyoto.

-Kadoya Atsushi
Main shrine at Sekizan Zen'in, dedicated to Sekisan Myōjin

Kyoto, 1995

©Fujii Hiroaki

Festival at Sekizan Zen'in conducted in worship of Sekisan Myōjin

Kyoto, 1995

©Fujii Hiroaki

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