This chapter discusses the history, construction, utilization, and excavation of the temple Yakushiji, the most well-known member of the Four Great Temples group. Three of the four temples were transferred from the old capital, Fujiwarakyō, to the new capital, Heijōkyō, in the early part of the Nara period. In contrast to the other two that were transferred (Asukadera and Kudara ōdera), Yakushiji retained essentially the same plan in its new location; this allows a comparison of seventh- and eighth-century manifestations of a single religious institution. Particularly important is the actual nature of the “transfer” of temples, an issue that has engaged scholars for a long time and can be especially well studied in the case of Yakushiji. The chapter attempts to elucidate key factors related to the “transfer” of the great temples from the old to the new capital as well as the manner in which Yakushiji was integrated into the first full-scale capital in Japan, Fujiwarakyō, thereby initiating a relationship between capital and temple that remained important in subsequent centuries.
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