Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites – Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan – linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, reflect the fusion of Shinto, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced from China and the Korean Peninsula. The sites (495.3 ha) and their surrounding forest landscape reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over 1,200 years. The area, with its abundance of streams, rivers and waterfalls, is still part of the living culture of Japan and is much visited for ritual purposes and hiking, with up to 15 million visitors annually. Each of the three sites contains shrines, some of which were founded as early as the 9th century.

Sites sacrés et chemins de pèlerinage dans les monts Kii

Nichés au cœur de forêts denses, dans les monts Kii qui surplombent l’océan Pacifique, trois sites sacrés, Yoshino et Omine, Kumano Sanzan et Koyasan, reliés par des chemins de pèlerinage aux anciennes capitales de Nara et Kyoto, reflètent la fusion entre le shinto, enraciné dans l’antique tradition japonaise du culte de la nature, et le bouddhisme venu depuis la Chine et la péninsule coréenne s’implanter au Japon. Les sites (495,3 ha) et la forêt qui les entoure reflètent une tradition pérenne et extraordinairement bien documentée de sanctification des montagnes, vivante depuis 1 200 ans. L’endroit, qui abonde en torrents, rivières et chutes d’eau, fait toujours partie de la culture vivante du Japon et accueille jusqu’à 15 millions de visiteurs par an, pèlerins ou randonneurs. Chacun des trois sites renferme des sanctuaires, dont certains remontent au IXe siècle.

المواقع المقدّسة وطرق الحج في جبال كيئي

تقع المواقع المقدَّسة الثلاثة "يوشينو وأوميني" و"كومانو سانزان" و"كيواسان" في الغابات الكثيفة في جبال كيئي المُطِّلة على المحيط الهادئ والتي تربطها ببعضها مسالكُ للحجّاج وتصلها بالعاصمتَيْن القديمتَيْن نارا وكيوتو. وتعكس هذه المواقع التداخل بين الشنتو، الدّيانة المتأصّلة في التّقليد الياباني القديم والتي تتمحور حول عبادة الطبيعة من جهة، والبوذيّة الآتية من الصين وشبه الجزيرة الكورية لتفرض نفسها في اليابان، من جهة أخرى. وتعكس هذه المواقع، بالإضافة إلى الغابة التي تُحيط بها، تقليدًا خالدًا. كما أنّها تتميّز بشكلٍ مُدهشٍ، بقدسيّة الجبال التي عمرها 1200 سنة. ولا يزال يشكّل هذا المكان حيث تكثر الفيضانات والأنهر والشلالات، جزءًا من الثّقافة الحيّة لليابان ويستقطب حوالى 15 مليون زائرٍ سنويًا بين حجّاج وسوّاح. كل موقع من هذه المواقع الثلاثة يضمّ معابدَ يعود بعضها إلى القرن التاسع.

source: UNESCO/ERI

纪伊山地的圣地与参拜道

大峰、熊野三山以及高野山三座圣地坐落在纪伊山地茂密的森林中,俯瞰太平洋,它们通过多条参拜古道连接奈良和京都两个古都,反映出根植于日本自然崇拜古老传统的神道教与自中国和朝鲜半岛引入日本的佛教的相互融合。该遗址(面积为495.3公顷)及其周围的森林景观是1200多年来持续保留完好的圣山传统的写照。这个地区连同其丰富的小溪、河流和瀑布仍然是日本现存文化的一部分,每年吸引多达1500万游客来参拜和游览。三个遗址内都有神殿,有些神殿甚至修建于9世纪。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Священные места и дороги паломников в горах Кии

Три священных места – Йошино-Омайн, Кумано-Санзан, и Койясан – расположены посреди густых лесов в горах Кии, протягивающихся на юге острова Хонсю. Они связаны между собой паломническими дорогами, ведущими в сторону древних столиц – Нара и Киото. Территория имеет площадь около 500 га и включает прекрасный окружающий горно-лесной ландшафт с изобилием рек, ручьев и водопадов. Ежегодно сюда приезжает почти 15 млн. туристов, главной целью которых является совершение разных ритуалов, а также пешие прогулки. В каждом из трех священных мест есть усыпальницы, причем некоторые из них датируются еще IX в.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Sitios sagrados y rutas de peregrinación de los Montes Kii

Los tres sitios sagrados de Yoshino-Omine, Kumano Sanzan y Koyasan están escondidos en medio de los frondosos bosques de los montes Kii que dominan el Océano Pacífico. Unidos por rutas de peregrinación a las antiguas capitales de Nara y Kyoto, son una muestra excepcional de la fusión entre la religión sintoísta –emanada de la antigua tradición japonesa del culto a la naturaleza– y el budismo venido al Japón desde China y la Península de Corea. Los tres sitios (495,3 hectáreas) y el bosque circundante son exponentes de una tradición ancestral de sacralización de las montañas, que se mantiene viva desde hace 1.200 años y está sólidamente atestiguada por una abundante documentación. Surcada por abundantes arroyos, ríos y cascadas, esta región sigue estando muy arraigada en las vivencias culturales de los japoneses, como lo demuestra el hecho de que la visiten anualmente 15 millones de personas por motivos religiosos, o para practicar el excursionismo. Cada uno de los tres sitios posee varios santuarios, algunos de los cuales fueron erigidos en el siglo IX.

source: UNESCO/ERI

紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道

source: NFUAJ

Heilige plaatsen en pelgrimsroutes in het Kii-gebergte

In de dichtbeboste wouden van het Kii-gebergte bevinden zich drie heilige plaatsen: Yoshino en Omine, Kumano Sanzan en Koyasan. Ze zijn met elkaar verbonden door pelgrimsroutes naar de oude hoofdsteden Nara en Kyoto. De drie plaatsen weerspiegelen de fusie van het shintoïsme – geworteld in de oude traditie van het aanbidden van de natuur in Japan – en het boeddhisme, ingevoerd vanuit China en Korea. Het gebied is nog steeds een deel van de levende cultuur van Japan en wordt veel bezocht voor rituele doeleinden en wandelingen. Jaarlijks trekken deze plaatsen tot wel 15 miljoen bezoekers.

Source: unesco.nl

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis  

Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains on a peninsula in the southernmost part of mainland Japan, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites – Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan – are linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto. Together these sites, the connecting pilgrimage routes, and surrounding forests form a cultural landscape that reflect the fusion of Shintoism, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced from China and the Korean Peninsula. The sacred sites are connected by 307 km of pilgrimage routes which cover a total area of 495.3 ha. With the surrounding forest landscape, they reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains maintained over 1,200 years.

Criterion (ii) :The monuments and sites that form the cultural landscape of the Kii Mountains are a unique fusion between Shintoism and Buddhism that illustrates the interchange and development of religious cultures in East Asia.

Criterion (iii) :The Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in the Kii Mountains, and their associated rituals, bear exceptional testimony to the development of Japan’s religious culture over more than a thousand years.

Criterion (iv) : The Kii Mountains have become the setting for the creation of unique forms of shrine and temple buildings which have had a profound influence on the building of temples and shrines elsewhere in Japan.

Criterion (vi) : Together, the sites and the forest landscape of the Kii Mountains reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over the past 1,200 years.

Integrity

The property consists of three sacred sites including precincts and buildings of temples and shrines in the heavily forested Kii Mountains, and a complex pattern of tracks and paths that link the sites together. These component parts are essential for demonstrating the religious framework of Shintoism (rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan), Buddhism (introduced to Japan from China and the Korean Peninsula), and Shugen-dô (the Shugen sect) which was influenced by the former two faiths. The three sacred sites with their surroundings demonstrate high degree of integrity. Also the pilgrimage routes, as part of the extensive cultural landscape, at present retain a significant degree of integrity.

Each component part has an adequate buffer zone to ensure the entire property’s wholeness and intactness.

Authenticity

Due to a long tradition of reconstructing and renewing timber structures, the authenticity of each wooden building is well preserved from the view of form/design, materials/substance, traditions/techniques, and location/setting.

At the three sacred sites, various religious rituals and practices mainly related to Shintoism, Buddhism, and Shugen-dô have been continually carried out. Such activities are still underway even now, and thus a high level of spiritual authenticity is maintained. These sacred sites and the forest landscape around them retain an extremely high degree of authenticity, in terms of not only tangible elements but also intangible elements represented by religious activities.

The sacred sites and pilgrimage routes have attracted worshippers since the 11th or 12th centuries and have thus retained a high degree of authenticity of function.

Protection and management requirements

This extensive property is the responsibility of a number of different jurisdictions and is protected by several layers of legislation that permit integrated application of related measures. Basic principles and methodology for comprehensive preservation and management of the tangible cultural assets of each component parts are outlined in the 2003 Comprehensive Preservation and Management Plan.

The buildings that constitute component parts of the property as monuments have been designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties under the Japanese Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The temple and shrine areas, the pilgrimage routes, and the forest landscape around them have been designated as Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty, and Natural Monuments under the same law. Thus, these component parts are rigorously preserved and activities such as alterations are strictly limited because they require the permission of the national government.

The property includes areas designated as a National Park and Prefectural Natural Park under the National Parks Law, and thus the natural environment is well preserved because development such as construction of new buildings or tree-felling cannot be carried out without the prior permission of the national or prefectural government.

All of the buildings and the grounds of the temples and shrines are well preserved through preservation and maintenance activities carried out by the relevant religious organizations. Yoshinoyama is preserved and maintained in collaboration with individual owners and local governments, in line with the management plan produced by the local Board of Education. The same applies to pilgrim routes which are preserved and maintained by private owners, local governments, and the national government. The national government can provide financial and technical support for restoration and repair projects on the basis of individual management plans.

Each component part has a clear and adequate buffer zone designated under the National Park Law, the Forest Act, local government regulations, or the like.

The Coordinating Academic Committee, with representatives from the Academic Committees of all three prefectures, works to facilitate proper communication and information sharing among relevant local governments. The Committee has approved a Comprehensive Preservation and Management Plan which is supported by the coordination of three supplementary Prefectural Plans. The status of preservation and management of the property is reported periodically in order to ensure it is fully implemented.

Long Description

The Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples that form the cultural landscape of the Kii Mountains are a unique fusion between Shintoism and Buddhism illustrating the interchange and development of religious cultures in East Asia. They have become the setting for the creation of unique forms of shrine and temple buildings that have had a profound influence on the building of temples and shrines elsewhere in Japan.

The site consists of three sacred sites in the heavily forested Kii Mountains, a peninsula jutting into the Pacific, and a complex pattern of tracks and paths that link the sites together and to the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto to the north, which flourished from the 6th century to 1868. The steep, rugged mountains of the Kii Peninsula rise to 1,000-2,000 m and are heavily wooded. The natural beauty of the area, and its harsh but serene mountain environment, has probably been revered since prehistoric times. The three specific sites had become established as major sacred sites as early as the 11th or 12th centuries, attracting a great number of worshippers. The area is still part of the living culture of Japan and the sites are heavily visited and used for ritual purposes and for hiking. The pilgrim routes are not all contiguous as there are sections excluded where they have been influenced by modern development. The forested mountains underpin the significance of the whole site, for it is the beauty and drama of the mountains and their contrast with the seascape to the south which has attracted people for at least 2,000 years.

Each of the three shrines contains both buildings and objects, such as temples, shrines, statues and stupas, as well as revered natural elements such as trees, waterfalls, rocks, etc. The built structures are almost all of wood, constructed in a post and pillar construction similar to Japanese houses. Many have been successively rebuilt.

Yoshino and Omine: this is the northern-most site near to Nara. The Yoshino or northern part of the site was by the mid-10th century known as the most important sacred mountain in Japan and its reputation had reached China. It was the object of mountain worship, Shinto, in the 7th and 8th centuries and later in the 8th century became one of the prime sacred places for the Shugen sect of ascetic Buddhism. Omine, the southern part, was also associated with the Shugen sect and, in particular, with ascetic practices connected to the harsh mountain environment. This site consists of groups of buildings in what is said to be a unique architectural style constructed as an embodiment of Shinto-Buddhist religious fusion.

Kumano Sanzan: This site is the furthest south. The shrine buildings are said to show outstanding wooden architectural styles that have no comparators. Within the site are three main shrines, and two temples, connected by a pilgrims' route. They reflect Shinto and the Shugen sect of Shinto-Buddhism, and were also closely associated with the search for the pure Buddhist land in the southern sea

Koyasan: This site south of Nara is partly in an alpine basin at an altitude of 800 m and partly at the foot of the mountains. It is actively used for annual festivals and rituals dedicated to the deity of the land and the rites of the Buddhist Shingon sect.

Pilgrim routes: As the sacred sites became established and well visited in the 11th or 12th centuries, a series of pilgrim routes were developed linking the sites to Kyoto and to other places throughout Japan - some based on earlier tracks. The routes in the mountains were designed to be arduous and the journey over them part of the religious experience, rather than a means to an end. Most of the routes are no more than 1m wide and of earth; in a few places stone steps or stone pavements were constructed, such as the 34 km stretch of stone paving through the forest, part of the Kumano Sankeimichi route between Kumano Sanzen and Ise Jungu.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

From the 3rd to the 2nd century BC, when rice culture was introduced into Japan and settlements began to develop in the lowlands, the Shinto religion, in which natural features such as mountains, forests, rocks and trees were revered as gods, came to be embraced - perhaps as a link to ancient dwelling sites in the hills. The mountain gods were thought to control water, essential for rice growing in the plains, and gold ore, needed as towns developed. It was also believed that the god who guided the first Emperor to build Nara the first capital resided in the mountains. Thus the Shinto religion came to be influential not only in rural areas but also in the towns as they were formed.

The introduction of Buddhism in the mid-6th century coincided with the development by the government of a centralised system of laws, following examples in China and the Korean peninsula. The government adopted Buddhism as the guardian religion for the nation and in the mid 8th century temples were built in each province of Japan. At the same time the concept of the Pure Land associated with the Kii Mountains begun to gain ground and people started to undertake training in the mountains.

In the 8th century the capital was moved to Kyoto and in the following century the esoteric Buddhist sect Mikkyo was brought to Japan from China. This stressed the belief that mountains are places for training to attain awakening. Out of this developed the local Shingon sect and many new temples were constructed in the Kii Mountains. The rise of Mikkyo/Shingon coincided with the rise in power of aristocrats whose authority was based on land ownership. They embraced this new sect, as did the Emperor who hosted various religious rites in what were coming to be seen as the sacred Kii Mountains. The new sect also interacted with Shintoism, a fusion that had been in existence since the 8th century and from this interaction the uniquely Japanese Shinto-Buddhist religion emerged which was to be a powerful force until the 19th century.

The growth of pilgrims visiting sites in the Kii Mountains seems to have coincided with the rise of social unrest around the capital in the 9th to the 10th centuries. It was at this time that many of the pilgrim routes were laid out.

In the following two centuries, 11th and 12th, the distinctly Japanese flowering of Buddhist practices, and the buildings that were associated with these beliefs, were strengthened by the government's decision to stop sending delegations to China. The consecration of the three main sites in the Kii Mountains were all progressed, and gained considerable support from people who were wanting escape from the worsening social conditions characterised by conflict between samurai. The Imperial family, aristocrats and samurai all became benefactors of new temples and land to support them, as a means of guaranteeing a better life in the hereafter and a retired Emperor made a first pilgrimage to Koyasan and Kumano Sanzan in the late 1tth century - stimulating others to follow in ever larger numbers. This prompted the development of hospices, the improvement of shrines and temples, the construction of Oji shrines along the main routes, and the funding by the Imperial family and aristocrats of people to manage the sites.

The Kii Mountain sites were thus established by the end of the 12th century as the main sacred mountain site in Japan, and attained a status which would persist to the present day.

At the end of the 12th century the government was moved to Kamkura -although the ruling family remained in Kyoto. From the 14th to the 16th century conflict between Imperial factions, the grip on power by the samurai and battles between feudal lords meant a weakening of Imperial and centralised authority, but at the same time the growth of a monetary economy and improved methods of production led to a new rich class. Pilgrimages were now extended to anyone who could afford the journey.

From the 17th until 1868 a powerful feudal government was established in Edo (later Tokyo) and much of the land associated with temples was absorbed by the government. Support however for the temples continued form the government and ordinary people. At the same time improved roads made travel easier and the number of pilgrims begun to increase, as did those wanting to travel as tourists.

In 1868 the Emperor took control from the feudal government and the Imperial capital was moved to Tokyo. The new government introduced measures to control religions in Japan, and issued the Shintoism and Buddhism Separation Decree in 1868. This prohibited activities related to the Shinto-Buddhist fusion and statues of Buddha were removed from shrines. However because of the strong support by society at large for the Kii Mountains and their shrines, many survived. Such was the outflow of cultural properties from Japan as a result of the law that in 1897 the government brought in the Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law, strengthening it is 1929, and extending it in 1919 to include natural sites.

After World War II, with the revitalising of the economy, visitors once again returned to the Kii Mountains and still visit in large numbers.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Activities (1)