Dō (architecture)

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A miei-dō

( temple, shrine, hall, reception room; also shop, store[1]?). It is very often used in Japanese Buddhism as a suffix in the name of some of the many buildings that can be part of a Japanese temple compound. (Other endings, for example -den as in butsuden, exist.) The prefix can be the name of a deity associated with it (e.g. Yakushi-dō, a name customarily translated as "Yakushi Hall") or express the building's function within the temple's compound (e.g. hon-dō, or main hall).[note 1]

Some words ending in - are Butsu-dō, hō-dō, hon-dō, jiki-dō, kaisan-dō, kō-dō, kon-dō, kyō-dō, mandara-dō, miei-dō, mi-dō, sō-dō, Yakushi-dō and zen-dō. With some exceptions, for example the words hondō, hokke-dō and kon-dō, these terms do not indicate any particular structure.

The suffix is used sometimes also in a lay context, as for example in the word shokudō (食堂 lit. food building?, meaning restaurant or cafeteria).

A dō's size is measured in ken, where a ken is the interval between two pillars of a traditional-style building. A kon-dō for example is a 9x7 ken.[2] The word is usually translated in English as "bay" and is better understood as an indication of proportions than as a unit of measurement.


  • Amida-dō (阿弥陀堂) - a building that enshrines a statue of Amida.[3]
  • daishi-dō (大師堂) - lit. "great master hall". A building dedicated to Kōbō Daishi (Shingon) or Dengyō Daishi (Tendai).[3]
  • hattō* (法堂) - lit. Dharma hall". A building dedicated to lectures by the chief priest on Buddhism's scriptures (the ).[4]
  • hō-dō (法堂) - see hattō.
  • hokke-dō* (法華堂) - lit. "Lotus Sūtra hall". In Tendai Buddhism, a hall whose layout allows walking around a statue for meditation.[3] The purpose of walking is to concentrate on the Lotus Sũtra and seek the ultimate truth.[3]
  • hon-dō* (本堂) - lit. "main hall", it is the building that houses the most important statues and objects of cult.[3] The term is thought to have evolved to avoid the term kon-dō used by six Nara sects (the Nanto Rokushū)[3] for their main halls. Structurally similar, but its inner less strictly defined.
  • jiki-dō* (食堂) - a monastery's refectory.[3]
  • kaisan-dō (開山堂) - founder's hall, usually at a Zen temple. Building enshrining a statue, portrait or memorial tablet of the founder of either the temple or the sect it belongs to. Jōdo sect temples often call it miei-dō.[3]
  • kō-dō* (講堂) - lecture hall of a non-Zen garan.[4]
  • kon-dō* (金堂) - lit. "golden hall", it is the main hall of a garan, housing the main object of worship.[3] Unlike a butsuden, it is a true two-story building (although the second story may sometimes be missing) which measures 9x7 bays.[3]
  • kyō-dō (経堂) - see kyōzō.
  • kyōzō (経蔵) - lit. "scriptures deposit". Repository of sūtras and books about the temple's history.[3] Also called kyō–dō.
  • mandara-dō (曼荼羅堂) - lit. "hall of mandalas", but the name is now used only for Taimadera's Main Hall in Nara.[3]
  • miei-dō* (御影堂) - lit. "image hall". Building housing an image of the temple's founder, equivalent to a Zen sect's kaisan-dō.[3]
  • mi-dō (御堂) - a generic honorific term for a building which enshrines a sacred statue.[3]
  • rokkaku-dō (六角堂) - a hexagonal temple building. An example of this type of structure gives its nickname to Kyoto's Chōhō-ji, better known as Rokkaku-dō.
  • shaka-dō (釈迦堂) - lit. Shakyamuni hall. A building enshrining a statue of Buddha.[3]
  • sō-dō* (僧堂) - lit. "monk hall". A building dedicated to the practice of zazen.[4] It used to be dedicated to all kinds of activities, from eating to sleeping, centered on zazen.
  • soshi-dō (祖師堂) - lit. "patriarchs hall". A building dedicated to the soshi, important teachers and priests.[3]
  • Yakushi-dō* (薬師堂) - a building that enshrines a statue of Yakushi Nyorai.[3]
  • zen-dō* (禅堂) - lit. "hall of Zen".[3] The building where monks practice zazen, and one of the main structures of a Zen garan.[3]


  1. Hall names are capitalized only when they refer to specific examples (e.g. XX-ji's Main Hall) or include proper names of deities (e.g. Yakushi-dō).


  1. Nelson, A.N., The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Dictionary, ISBN 0-8048-0408-7
  2. "Kondou". JAANUS. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 "Corresponding JAANUS article". JAANUS. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Iwanami Kōjien (広辞苑?) Japanese dictionary, 6th Edition (2008), DVD version