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Tendai school of Buddhism
Saichō, founder of the Tendai school of Buddhism

The Tendai (天台宗) Japanese school of Buddhism is a descendant of the Chinese Tiantai or Lotus Sutra school.

The Tiantai teaching was first brought to Japan by the Chinese monk Jianshen (鑑眞) in the middle of the 8th century, but it was not widely accepted. In 805, a Japanese monk, Saichō (最澄) returned from China with new Tiantai texts and made the temple that he had built on Mt. Hiei (比叡山), the Enryakuji, a center for the study and practice of what became Japanese Tendai.

However, what Saichō had transmitted from China was not exclusively Tiantai, but also included Zen (禪), esoteric Mikkyo (密教), and Vinaya School (戒律) elements. The tendency to include a range of teachings became more marked in the doctrines of Saichō's successors, such as Ennin (圓仁) and Enchin (圓珍).

The Tendai sect flourished under the patronage of the imperial family and nobility in Japan; in 784, the Imperial capital was moved from Nara to nearby Kyoto. In 1571 the Enryakuji was razed by Oda Nobunaga; it was later rebuilt, and continues to serve as the Tendai base to the present day.

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