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Jōdo shū (浄土宗 "School of the Pure Land") is a school of Buddhism that developed in Japan, from the Chinese Pure Land school. It was introduced by the priest Ennin (793-864). The essence of this form of Buddhism is that devotees do not attain enlightenment by their own power, but by simply having faith in Amida's power of salvation. It is unique in that it emphasizes "faith" and sees God and Amida Buddha as one and the same.
However, the religion as known today, was founded by Honen. He formulated the principles in 1175, following a retreat on Mount Hiei, he set up residence in the Higashiyama district, Kyōto (then called Heian-kyō) and began to teach. His teaching were further refined by Ryochu (1199-1287), the student of Bencho, who was one of Honen's main disciples.
It was not until the early 15th century, however, that Jodo Shu became to be seen as an institution rather than an idea. It was around this time, its diverse teachings were systemised and it received government approval. This was soon followed by a period of great prosperity ushered in by the patronization of Tokugawa Ieyasu himself in 1590.
Surviving the late Edo period and through the rebellion and world wars, Jodo Shu has continued to develop. Present day Jodo Shu has about seven thousand temples, of which Chion-in in Kyōto is the head temple. There are seven other main temples in the country and nineteen overseas temples in Hawaii, the U.S.A. and Brazil.