Historical Summary: Hôryûji Temple

Hôryûji is the oldest surviving Buddhist temple in Japan and the oldest wooden building in the world.  It was originally built in 607 AD by Prince Shôtoku, the imperial prince who was then serving as regent for his aunt, Empress Suiko.  The temple was located adjacent to the prince's private palace at Ikaruga.  Following Shôtoku's death in 621, his family continued to patronize the temple until 643, when his son and heir, Prince Yamashiro, was forced to commit suicide by  Soga clan leader, who was fearful of the threat that Yamashiro posed to Soga power.  With this, the direct line of Prince Shôtoku came to an end.  The temple survivied, however, in close association with the memory of Shôtoku.  Modern archaeology has shown that the original Hôryûji was burned in 672, and that the present temple was reconstructed on a wholly different plan in the late 7th and early 8th centuries.  Slightly later, in 739, the octagonal building known as the "Yumedono" (Hall of Dreams) was built as a memorial to Prince Shôtoku on the site of his former palace.