Lately I have been focusing by practice on the kata Yabu no Jion and appreciate its simplicity and directness compared to other Karate kata. As I’ve mentioned before, Yabu no Jion is virtually identical to Hanashiro no Jion as found in “An Overview of Karate-do“. Today I wanted to briefly touch on the name of the kata itself “Jion” but not the kata’s origins. Better authors than myself have already delved into that murky topic. Two of which can be found here and here. In the context of Okinawa history, the name “Jion” refers to a temple constructed during the Ryukyu Kingdom era by the 1st Sho dynasty. There are two excellent blog entries (here and here) in Japanese explaining the history of Jion temple and I have translated some of the most relevant sections below. I hope you find them interesting.
The exact date of Jion temple’s construction is unknown, but it is known that the temple was built as a royal mausoleum in the 1st Sho royal lineage. This is confirmed in the Chuzan Seju which states, “The Kings of the past used Jion Temple as their mausoleum, and the temple was very close to Shuri Castle.” After the death of King Sho Toku (1461-1469), his relatives would enter the mausoleum at different times to grieve, and their voices could be heard even in Shuri Castle.
Since King Sho En usurped the throne from the 1st Sho dynasty and became the first king of the 2nd Sho dynasty it necessitated the construction of a new temple in place of Jion, which had previously been the temple of the 1st Sho lineage. The temple was called Sogen, and Kai In Shoko, also known as “the King’s fixer”, became the founder of Sogen Temple. Because of this, there is a theory that Jion was transferred to Sogen, but since Jion and Sogen are described as separate temples in the later Ryukyu Shinto Records, they should be regarded as two different temples.
The Ryukyu Shinto Records compiled by Taichu Ryojo (1552-1639) lists Jion as the temple where Kannon is enshrined. It is not known when Jion Temple was abolished, but it is mentioned in an article on the “Merging of the main temple bells of the abandoned temples” in the Ryukyu Province Origin Record compiled in 1713. So it is confirmed that the Jion temple was abolished at least before 1713. Some have suggested that it may have been burnt down during the Satsuma invasion of Ryukyu in 1609.
In addition, when the Qing envoy Wang Huo entered Sogen Temple, he secretly had the tablets of the first Sho dynasty copied, and as the tablets include those of the first Sho dynasty (Introduction to Nakayama Rekishi), they were probably placed at Sogen Temple after Jion Temple was closed.