A temple built by local Chinese merchants to pray for safety on the sea
With Fuzhou-born Chinese residents of Nagasaki in the majority, the Zen monk Chaonian was invited from China to help establish this Obaku sect temple in 1629. Along with Kofuku-ji and Fukusai-ji, Sofuku-ji has been named as one of Nagasaki’s Sanpuku Temples (Three Fuku Temples). A temple that has been deeply imbued with Nagasaki-like Chinese culture, it is said that Sofuku-ji was built by the Chinese during the Edo Era which was notable for its edict on banning Christianity so that a Nagasaki Chinese-style temple could be established to reveal its Buddhism regardless of the residents’ birthplaces. The Nagasaki Chinese temple’s characteristic didn’t lie with its religious events but within its enshrinement of Masado, the god of the sea, who mainly protected ocean travelers and provided memorial services for ancestors. Afterwards, structures such as the Great Leader’s Main Hall and the Sanmon Gate were provided from contributions so that the facility grew to function as a proper temple.
A temple filled with Chinese feeling as a treasure house of cultural assets
There are 5 National Treasures in Kyushu with 2 of them located in Sofuku-ji Temple. In addition to the National Treasures of Daiippomon Gate and the Great Leader’s Main Hall, the temple is a treasure house for 5 nationally-designated Important Cultural Properties, 4 prefecturally-designated Tangible Cultural Properties, and 10 municipally-designated Tangible Cultural Properties. The first gate of Daiippomon Gate being a National Treasure has a complicated structure behind its eaves, a feature that is unusual not only in Japan but also in China. The other National Treasure of the Great Leader’s Main Hall is known as the oldest building in Nagasaki, and under its eaves, there are highly unusual cylindrical structures which hang down. There is also a statue of Guan Yu who has been revered as a god in China for his heroic role in “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. In addition, the Buddhist statues and ritual implements within the hall were all made by master craftsmen from China so that the building has a definite air of China. Furthermore, the Important Cultural Property of the Sanmon Gate has been called an alternate gate for Ryugu Castle due to its splendid shape. On a stone by the stairs beyond the Sanmon Gate, there is a carving of the Peach of Life which tells of the legend of a peach tree which bears fruit only once every 3000 years, and if you eat one of the peaches, it will extend your life.