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IMAGE: Kurama-dera (drawing by Fujishima Takeji, 1867-1943)
Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺) is a temple in the far north of Kyoto, Japan which houses some National Treasures of Japan. It was a member of the Tendai sect and subordinate to Shōren-in from the 12th century until 1949 when it founded its own religious body. The object of worship is esoteric and unique to the temple. It is said to have been founded by a disciple of Jianzhen.
Situated in secluded wilderness at the base of Mount Kurama, it is accessible by its own cable car line, the Kurama-dera Cable.
The temple was founded in the 8th century AD. Its origins are historically unclear, but it is said that the Chinese monk Jianzhen initiated a disciple into the Buddhist path, who saw in a dream in 772 that Mount Kurama had a spiritual power and built an esoteric temple to concentrate and control this power. It was burned down many times throughout the medieval era but the Buddhist statues and treasures inside it were always rescued and are today National Treasures. It is still believed today that tengu and other mountain spirits live in this area.
The temple switched between three different Buddhist sects over the centuries. Finally, in the postwar era, abbot Kouun Shigaraki founded his own religion and split the temple away from Buddhism. Thus the temple was finally able to reconcile with its yamabushi patrons and other unaffiliated, esoteric adherents of mountain worship.