Five Mountains and Ten Temples

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1 The name given to a cluster of Ch'an temples, all of the Yang-ch'i line of the Lin-chi school. All were located in either Hang-chou or Ning-chou and enjoyed imperial patronage beginning in the Southern Sung dynasty (1127–1278). While these temples benefited from such patronage, they also suffered from the control that the state demanded as an unspoken condition of its support. While formally the Five Mountains constituted a first ranking, and the Ten Temples a second, with a third tier below them, the system was very vague in practice. Nevertheless, it served as an inspiration and model for a later Japanese attempt to institute a set of official temples under a system that also used the name ‘Five Mountains and Ten Temples’.

2 The name given to a system of official temple ranking that began in the late 13th and early 14th centuries in Japan.based on the ‘Five Mountains and Ten Temples’ system of Sung-dynasty China. The gozan, or ‘five mountains’, were Rinzai zen temples of the first rank, that is, temples that received the official patronage of the Ashikaga government. In the next rank below them were the ‘ten distinguished temples’ (Jap., jissetsu), and in the third rank were the ‘miscellaneous temples’ (Jap., shozan). The temples that actually occupied these ranks varied with the rulers' favours, and often included more than five temples within the first rank or ten within the second. While the system was in effect it helped the government to organize zen temples into a bureaucratic hierarchy and provided it with outposts in the provinces from which it could counteract the rising influence of local warlords. This system embraced over 300 temples at its zenith (along with thousands of affiliated subtemples), but went into a decline in the 15th century due to the rise of rival Zen schools.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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