Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

View of Nibo no Miya, a restored garden of an aristocratic palace of Heij6-kyo. Nara Cultural Properties Research Institute, Nara Municipal Board of Education

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

The Asuka period (552-645) is distinguished by two major events, the beginning of the great passion for all things Chinese by the imperial court, and the formal introduction of Buddhism from the Korean kingdom of Paekche. The period begins with the year 552—twelve years into the reign of the Emperor Kimmei—to mark the arrival of the Paekche diplomatic mission and their Buddhist gifts. The name Asuka itself refers to a valley of the Yamato heartland to the south of present-day Nara where the imperial court often resided between the reign of the Emperor lnkyo that of Gemmyo. The imperial court and government was of a semi-nomadic nature during this period. Shinto ritual stipulated that the death of an emperor made the palace unclean, and therefore with each accession a new palace on a new site had to be built. Furthermore, the emperors could also move their residence about in an effort to consolidate the allegiance of the different aristocratic clans under their authority.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Box with design of boys and lions. Chinese, 8th century, originally preserved in Horyu-ji. Lacquer with inlaid mother of pearl; 7 % x 9 ‘A x 9 / in. (18.1 x 23.5 x 23.5 cm). Museum of Imperial Collections, Sannomaru ShSzSkan,Tokyo.

Instead, its structure was based on a well-organized bureaucracy of officials with the emperor at its center. Only in this way could they hope to participate actively in the government of ministries staffed by officials. The imperial house would become, therefore, not simply the spiritual and figurative focus of the state. It would take on a more active and central role in its governance, and be the agency by which members of the aristocracy could hope to gain lucrative and influential government positions.
Ambitious as they were, the Soga had quickly gained high influence with the imperial family, Umako’s sister even becoming one of Emperor Kimmei’s consorts. However, they had no hereditary court position, such as the ancient warrior aristocracy held.
The new system of government was a rigidly ordered and symmetrically apportioned division of responsibilities. The entire bureaucracy was divided into two departments: the Department of Worship, which oversaw Shinto affairs, and the Department of State, which was concerned with all aspects of secular government. The latter was further divided into eight ministries, four under the control of the Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) and four under the Udaijin (Minister of the Right). The country itself was organized in provinces, each with a governor. The provinces were subdivided into districts, each with its own administrator, and further subdivided into townships—each consisting of fifty households and governed by a headman responsible to the district administrator. Before the establishment of the first capital, this university was sited near the palace and government buildings—wherever those happened to be. Since the establishment of Fujiwara as the first “permanent” capital, it has always been located within the precincts of the capital.
The Hakuho period (645-710) begins with the proclamation of the Taika Reforms in 645. It rapidly became apparent that old ritual and political concerns would have to be set aside, and that a permanent home for this imperial bureaucracy would need to be established. And it was decided that a capital city along the lines of the Chinese Chang’an would be most suitable. However, Fujiwara was abandoned after only sixteen years, and a new permanent capital was established at Heijo-kyo. about 12 miles (20 km) to the north in 710. Heijo was laid out on a similar Chinese imperial plan, and for eighty-four years thrived as Japan’s first great metropolis, embracing one of the most culturally fertile periods in the nation’s history. However, in 794 the capital was once again reestablished—this time at the city of Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto).

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Fragment of the Izumo Edition of Daihoshakkyo (Dabaojijing) Sutra, attributed to Empress Komyo, consort of Emperor Shomu. Ink on paper; 10 % x 5 % in. (27 cm x 14.6 cm). Kyoto National Museum.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Lobed dish with chased design of a dragon pond, mandarin ducks, and fish, Chinese, 8th century, preserved in Japan. Gilt silver; diameter 5 ‘A in.
(14 cm), height 2 in. (5.2 cm). Hakutsuru Fine Art Museum, Hyogo.

Beginnings of a Metropolitan Court Culture
By this time, power had been transferred completely to the emperor and his appointed ministers, and the formerly semi-independent aristocracy had been transformed into a metropolitan elite concerned utterly with the person of the emperor and the intrigues, rituals, and pastimes of the imperial court.
An important feature of the transformation of the imperial court during the more than two centuries that this political changeover took was the head-long passion with which the court threw itself into adopting the cultural trappings of Chinese civilization. The many cultures that gathered in the Chinese capital produced a material culture that was certainly unrivalled elsewhere in the late first millennium c.e., and its magnificent achievements in all fields, from literature, painting, and sculpture to the decorative arts, have arguably never been repeated on such a scale in the country’s history. It was certainly not only Japan that held Tang China up as its shining aspiration; neighboring Korea was equally under its influence.
By the advent of the Tang, Buddhism had been long established in China, and by the fifth century the Korean kingdoms of Koguryo and Paekche had officially adopted it, Silla ultimately also following suit. In the Tang, as in several preceding Chinese dynasties, Buddhism played an important role in the affairs of the nation. The Buddhist community was spread throughout the Chinese empire in a closely knit network of temples and monasteries that, not unimportantly, acknowledged the Tang emperor as being the supreme authority on earth. The Buddhist foundations across Tang China were wealthy and influential, and as such they were important patrons of the arts.
Neither the Paekche embassies of 552 nor of 584 were successful in introducing Buddhism to the Japanese imperial court. A century later, Buddhism was well established within Yamato itself, with Emperor Tenmu (r. 673-86) and his successor, Empress Jito (r. 686-97) openly advocating Buddhism as an instrument of the state. The power and wealth of the court were accordingly mobilized for the construction of large and elaborate Buddhist temples in the next century. In addition, all official residences were required by imperial edict to have a Buddhist altar with an image and appropriate sutras, and Buddhist institutions were to be established in each of the provinces. Already, however, these great “national” temples had been preceded by privately founded temples, in particular those established by Soga no Umako and Prince Shotoku, and it is their patronage which ignited Japan’s long and great tradition of Buddhist art. Although these first Buddhist images of the Asuka, Hakuho, and Nara periods closely imitate the styles of the continent, they nevertheless feature the seeds of a Japanese idiom that in the succeeding Heian period would begin to flower, and would continue to do so through to the sixteenth century.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Plan of Fujiwarakyo (694-710). Nara Cultural Properties Research Institute.

The Creation of an Imperial City
Although the concept of a permanent capital was set forth in the Taika reforms of 64 5, it was not, as mentioned above, until the reign of Emperor Tenmu (r. 673-86) that a site was selected and laid out with a formal design. This was the city of Fujiwara-kyo, in the Asuka Valley, which was actually built by Tenmu’s successor, Empress Jito, and occupied in 694. The site of the city was on land belonging to the Nakatomi clan, who had been hereditary heads of Shinto affairs, and who had fought against the Shotoku/Soga alliance in 587 and their desire to promote the Chinese reforms and allow the propagation of Buddhism. Though they lost that battle, the Nakatomi proved to be a clan of great resilience and adaptability. By 645 and the proclamation of the Taika Reforms, they had turned the political tables on the Soga clan, eliminating its principal members and taking their place at the emperor’s side. The Nakatomi clan held the Fujiwara region of the Asuka Valley in fief, and had been granted the name as their official surname by the end of the century. The Nakatomi/Fujiwara retained their traditional, hereditary role as the heads of Shinto affairs, or of the new Department of Religious Affairs, and as the hereditary priests of the imperial shrines. However, they also began a long and distinguished career providing many of the ministers who directed the Department of State, so that by the middle of the Heian period (794-11 85) they would effectively control all government and the emperor, with whose family they had by this time become very intimately connected through many generations of intermarriage.
The site of the city of Fujiwara, chosen within their fief, is near the village of Kashihara, and from the 1930s excavations began there to uncover this first capital city, becoming a permanent, ongoing project in 1969. What has so far been uncovered is a city site measuring one mile by one mile (2×2 km), and organized on a grid plan of nine large avenues cross cut by thirteen smaller ones. However, excavations have now revealed that the extent of the city was perhaps even larger than this. This grid neatly divided the city into large blocks, which were further subdivided by a pair of crossed lanes into four units known as cho. Each cho formed the basic residential unit, and the city’s buildings covered areas ranging from a portion of a single cho to the 64 cho covered by the imperial palace. The palace grounds at the heart of the city measured about half a mile (1 km) on each of its four sides, and was accessed by the principal avenue, which was over 98 feet (30 m) in width and ran from the southern city’s entrance. The other eight avenues flanking it varied from 33 to 79 feet (10-24 m) in width, and were roughly spaced about 870 feet (265 m) apart. The Asukagawa River ran diagonally across the city, and the foothills of one of the neighboring Yamato mountains intruded into the city’s western flank, which by disrupting the grid plan must have softened the otherwise rigid aesthetic of the urban design.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Objects excavated from ritual sites at the Omiyame Shrine, Kyoto. Asuka Nara periods, 6th-7th centuries. Jade. Omiyame Shrine, Kyoto.

It is doubtful that either were intended primarily to be defensive, but were instead more of a ceremonial division of space—the city from the country, and the emperor and government from the commonalty. The imperial residence was made up of numerous buildings that were on a more intimate scale, which appear to have been roofed with the more homely materials of planks or cedar- bark shingling.
As has already been mentioned, the model for Fujiwara was Chang’an, which was more than four times the size of the first Japanese capital. However, it has been estimated that Fujiwara supported a population of no more than thirty thousand, while Chang’an at its height had a population of over a million people. Given the ratio in size, it would appear that Fujiwara provided the luxury of considerably more space for each of its citizens than was the case in the crowded Chinese capital. But it is usually a burgeoning population that is cited as being the principal reason that the government persuaded the Emperor Mommu (r. 69 7-708) to remove the capital from Fujiwara in 710 and reestablish it on a completely new site about 13 miles (20 km) to the north. The result was the city of Heijo-kyo, which—built on a plan almost identical to that of Fujiwara—measured some 3 miles (4 km) from east to west and almost 4 miles (6 km) from north to south. It reputedly supported at its height a population of some sixty to seventy thousand people.
The new city also sat within a plain, and was flanked by mountains on three sides, although these were ranged to the north instead of to the south and west, as they were at Fujiwara. The city grid was laid out with ten lateral avenues and nine longitudinal ones. However, the parallel avenues were twice the distance from each other as their equivalents in Fujiwara, and the large blocks that they delineated could be broken down into sixteen cho by bisecting lanes. The large central avenue leading to the new imperial palace, the Suzaku Oji, was over 229 feet (70 m) in width, while the subsidiary avenues were 69-118 feet (21-36 m) in width. The Heijo palace enclosure was only about ten percent larger than its Fujiwara predecessor, but instead of being in the heart of the city it rested at the centre of the northern perimeter, as did the imperial palace at Chang’an. The buildings within the palace precinct remained roughly the same as those at Fujiwara. but excavations have shown that they seem to have been repositioned several times within the enclosure during the seventy- odd years that the palace was in use.
The great upheaval engendered by removing the population of Fujiwara to Heijo can only be guessed at. Indeed, a suburb known as the Gekyo, or Outer Capital, was created in the foothills of the eastern mountain, especially to accommodate the rebuilt Asukadera (renamed at this point with the more Chinese style of name, Gangoji) as well as a private Buddhist foundation of the Fujiwara clan, the Kofukuji. The old shrines and temples of Fujiwara were relegated to a subsidiary role by their departed occupants, and many were destroyed in 711 by the great conflagration that swept through the abandoned city.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Male-Female Fountain Sculpture, excavated at Asuka mura, Ishigami. Asuka period, 7th century. Stone; height 67 in. (170 cm). Asuka Historical Museum.

Heijo would not long escape a similar fate. From the reign of Emperor Konin (r. 770-82) it was felt that a new capital was needed and a site was found some 25 miles (40 km) to the northwest. With the exception of these Buddhist foundations and some Shinto shrines, Heijo was as quickly abandoned as Fujiwara, and its former palaces, mansions, markets, and neighborhoods turned over to farmland. This farmland, however, has largely preserved the grid layout of the lost city’s neighborhoods, greatly facilitating archaeological study of this second capital. The great Buddhist compounds established in the Nara period for the most part endure to this day, and to serve them the city of Nara was slowly formed to the east of the site of Heijo. It is with this city that the ancient capital has come to be identified in the popular imagination. Both Fujiwara and Heijo are important not only as the first planned cities of Japan, but because they provided models for smaller cities which were to be built in each of the provinces as administrative centers. The basic grid plan established by these cities was also adopted for the new capital of Heian, and would be the Japanese urban template used for many centuries to come.
Sadly, the excavated sites of neither the Fujiwara nor Heijo palaces can give a complete idea of what these compounds might have looked like. Comparing them with images of the palace subsequently established at Heian, and with some of the Nara-period Buddhist temples, gives a very rough and perhaps not entirely reliable idea. However, from their layouts, both the public buildings and private mansions seem to have been heavily influenced by palace-type architecture to be found on the continent. Basically wooden structures of a post- and-beam construction, roofed with either tiling or a kind of wood or bark shingle. The buildings would have formed enclosures around courtyards, but it is obvious that they would also have framed ornamental gardens, sometimes of great size. The excavated and recreated garden of Nibo no Miya once sat in the compound of an aristocratic mansion of ancient Heijo and was the focus of poetry-writing parties and other such pastimes of the imperial aristocracy. There are many descriptions of similar gardens in Nara- and Heian-period literature, featuring an artificial pond representing the sea or a stream representing a river, bordered by rocks and plants molded and cultivated to reproduce in miniature a natural landscape. Ultimately this type of garden has a continental inspiration, but by the Nara period it is evident that gardens had long been an important feature of both aristocratic mansions and imperial palaces.
In fact, at the last imperial palace before the removal to Fujiwara, there have also been found remains of a palace garden, although regretfully not in such a state that they could be recreated, as at Nibo no miya. The palace of Kiyomihara no miya within the city limits of present-day Asuka served as the last of the principal imperial residences not to be encased in a Chinese-style capital city. It was from here that the city of Fujiwara was planned and its construction overseen. At one corner of the site has been found the remains of a vast garden, and, most interestingly, pieces of stone sculpture that once ornamented it. One of the more unusual of these is a stone carving of an entwined man and woman which served as a fountain, water spouting from the two mouths. When compared to the Buddhist sculptures of the same period and earlier, this is an ungraceful and crude piece. However, there is a sense as well that this roughness is deliberate, and the image’s comic quality is certainly eloquently communicated. Another cone-shaped stone sculpture of Mount Sumeru, which in the Buddhist conception rests at the centre of the universe, points to a Chinese influence in not only the fashion for garden sculpture, but also in its subject matter. It is not clear, however, to what extent these sculptures represent a Chinese sculptural idiom and to what extent an emerging Japanese sculptural style.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Tableau of the death of Shaka, north side of the five-storied pagoda, Horyuji. 711. Clay over wood and metal.

The Introduction of Writing
The Japanese elite had long before the Asuka period (552-645) been exposed to written language. There have been rare finds at Yayoi-period (400 в.с.е.-ЗООс.е.) burials of Korean or Chinese mirrors bearing inscriptions in Chinese characters, and even more unusual finds of Kofun-period (300-710 c.e.), Japanese-made objects bearing inscriptions in Chinese. However, with the reorientation of the imperial court towards a Chinese model, writing and the art of its production —or calligraphy—has a sudden and spectacular flowering. By the Nara (710-94) and Heian (794-1185) periods, knowledge of writing, and even more importantly, accomplishment at calligraphy, would be the most important factors within aristocratic and court circles in determining a person’s character and breeding. Furthermore, as in the rest of East Asia, it would be from calligraphic style and technique that painting as a fine art would evolve.
The Chinese system of ideographic writing took its present shape early in the first millennium b.c.e., and was adopted largely throughout the Korean peninsula by the end of the second century b.c.e. In Japan, with its close cultural links from the Yayoi period onward with continental culture, it seems unlikely that the ready-made Chinese system of writing would not have been utilized early on within Na and the early Yamato state—if for no other reason than for the ruler’s household records and accounts. Certainly by the mid-Kofun period, imperial administration must have been sufficiently complex to require some form of written record. Nevertheless, the first such records are from the Nara period. However, the large numbers of thin wooden strips inscribed in ink with characters created by clear and confident hands that have been found at the Heijo palace site certainly did not appear overnight. In addition, Buddhism, based as it is on the word of the Buddha embodied by the sutras, requires a level of literacy amongst its clergy and practitioners. The Japanese were certainly not importing Indian Sanskrit texts; all of their Buddhist transmissions—whether from Korea or China—were of texts written with Chinese characters.
The beauty of the Chinese writing system is that it is ideographic. That is to say, because a specific character represents an idea or an object rather than a word for an object, many different and mutually unintelligible languages can share it. applying to the ideographic character for a particular object or concept their own spoken word for that object/concept. Thus, one of the first ways Chinese characters were used was for their basic ideographic value, each character being equated with the appropriate Japanese word. However, by the Asuka period it had become clear that a way must be found to adapt the Chinese writing system to the particular inflections of Japanese grammar and the Japanese tendency towards polysyllabic words. Thus a system called manyogana emerged in the seventh and eighth centuries. Certain Chinese characters were chosen for their phonetic pronunciation within the Chinese language and used as a primitive phonetic syllabary with which words and phrases in the Japanese language could—as it were—be spelled out.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Side view of bodhisattva figure, from Shaka Triad, by Tori Busshi, in the kondo, Horyuji. Dated 623. Gilt bronze; height 35 in. (90. 7 cm).

The name manyogana is derived from the first-known Japanese literary work, the compilation of poems known as the Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). Although it was not actually compiled until after 759, the vast majority of the poems in this anthology of over four thousand date from the second quarter of the seventh century to the mid-eighth century, the heyday of the manyogana experiment. Written for the most part by imperial courtiers, they range in sentiment from verses composed to commemorate official events to more personal lyrics; from short, thirty-one syllable love poems to longer pieces lamenting the absence of a loved one, the pains of old age and of poverty.
The poem is by one Princess Kagami at the court of Emperor Tenji (r. 662-72), and is a response to a poem sent by the emperor himself to the princess. She uses the imagery of nature to convey her passion and also wryly express her feeling that it is not quite returned. Manyogana, however, was also used to compose the first great histories of Japan, the Kojiki and Nihon shoki (or Nihongi), which were both commissioned by the imperial court and written in the early decades after the removal of the capital to Heijo.
Actual survivals of calligraphy from this early epoch are rare, but there are a certain number dating from the eighth century, many of them attributed to imperial hands. While poetry formed one of the main pastimes and accomplishments of the imperial courtier, and the primary stage on which mastery of calligraphy (not to mention poetics) could be displayed, there were many other occasions on which it might also be shown to its advantage. One instance is a fragment of an imperial decree by the Emperor Shomu (r. 724-49) to be circulated amongst twelve temples of the Kansai region, and dated 749, the year of his abdication in favor of his daughter Koken. Shomu is perhaps the most famous of all the emperors of the eighth century. He was a vigorous ruler, and a great supporter of Chinese learning and Buddhism, launching the Nara period’s greatest project—the national Buddhist temple of Todaiji and its monumental Buddha image. Unfortunately, the first part of the message is missing, so it is uncertain which of the twelve temples this particular version of the decree was meant for. The decree accompanied offerings of linen, cotton, and grants of land to each of the temples, and requested them to pray for peace and happiness throughout the land, as well as the further promulgation of Buddhism, As with Chinese and Korean texts, the decree itself is meant to be read from right to left.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Shitennoji, Osaka.

The only part of the message written by the emperor is the large character for choku (imperial decree) at the end of the fragment. To the left below this character are the signatures of various government ministers. This single character is written with a particular flourish, demonstrating a strong, virile, and educated hand. At this early period, the standard form of calligraphy is the very readable, measured strokes with which government officials wrote decrees such as this one. Yet, even in such a government document, one can note a variation in the width of the strokes which lifts the characters off the paper. With the appearance of having been executed with elegant ease, this calligraphy—though only by a government clerk—is still the product of a mature and well-practiced hand, and would have been perceived as such by whomever saw this decree. The repeated pattern of imperial seals in red behind the text and signatures decoratively proclaim the decree as being imperial.
Another calligraphic occupation of the Nara-period elite was the copying of Buddhist sutras. Throughout the Buddhist world to copy a sutra, or to have one copied, was to help spread the word of the Buddha: thereby one accrued a great deal of merit and proceeded some little bit towards Enlightenment, or at the very least rebirth into a Buddhist paradise. While in China many examples of this practice are executed with a calligraphy of less than mediocre quality, in eighth-century Japan, where the imperial court formed the core of the Buddhist community, such exercises often resulted in works of great calligraphic beauty. One survival from this period has been attributed to Shomu’s consort, Komyo. A fragment. of a much longer scroll, the sutra is part of a collection of forty-nine sutras known collectively as the Daihoshakkyo (ch. Dabaojijing, Sutra Treasury of the Buddhist Law). Of particular note is the beautifully colored paper which the empress has chosen with its border of chrysanthemums at top. Also interesting is the nature of her calligraphy. An even more formal rendition of the clerical script than in the imperial decree, it has thicker, less various lines. The particular grace of the curves, however, suggest an accomplished, feminine hand.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Lady under a Tree, detail of screen panel, in the Shosoin,Todaiji. Ink and color on paper; height 49 A in. (125.7 cm).

Silk Roads to Japan
The period of the Japanese court’s great fascination with Tang China coincided with the golden age of the Silk Roads connecting East Asia with India, Western Asia, and ultimately the Mediterranean. Although there is no evidence that any Japanese ever traveled beyond the Silk Roads eastern terminus of Dunhuang, the exotic and luxury goods that were traded along it and which helped to create the dynamic and cosmopolitan Tang International Style were as avidly sought after by the Japanese court and aristocracy as by their Tang Chinese and Korean counterparts.
It was in the early centuries c.e. that traffic along these trade routes across the wastes of the Taklamakan Desert began to increase. The history of the Silk Roads at this period was dominated by the Parthian (235 b.c.e.-224c.e.) and SSssanian (224-c. 645) empires of Persia to the west of the Taklamakan, the empires and kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent to the south, and the Chinese states and kingdoms from the Han empire (206 b.c.e-220 c.e.) at the beginning of the millennium to the establishment of the Tang empire in 618. Peppered along the northern and southern extremities of the Taklamakan were oasis city-states and kingdoms that grew rich from the great quantity of trade passing through them and whose wealth was often coveted by their more powerful neighbors, particularly those to the east. Both the Han and Tang empires extended their borders almost to the western extremity of the Taklamakan for periods of time.
Each of the economies linked by the Silk Roads was famous for a wide variety of goods. China was most famous for raw silk, while Sassanian Persia was famous for weaving that silk into fantastic brocades, as well as for its metalwork—in particular gold and silver vessels for the table. The kingdoms of the western Taklamakan were a famous source of jade, and India’s most famous export along the Silk Roads was, in fact, Buddhism. By the seventh century, all of these elements had come together in the Tang capital of Chang’an to create an elite lifestyle with an aesthetic definitely favoring a sophisticated multi-culturalness.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Honden (main hall), Izumo, Shimane prefecture. Rebuilt 1744.

Part of the Japanese elite’s fascination for all things Chinese at this time also embraced this same lifestyle and aesthetic. As mentioned, there is no evidence that Japanese diplomats. traders, or Buddhist pilgrims went further west than China’s great capital of Chang’an or the eastern Silk Roads entrepot and Buddhist center of Dunhuang. However, it is evident from both the literature of the period, and from actual surviving objects, that the Japanese elite fully engaged with this international culture, whether or not they were completely aware of its nature or simply considered it to be an aspect of the Chinese culture to which they subscribed.
Most of the surviving Silk Roads artifacts have, in fact, been preserved in temple treasuries. As was the practice in many other countries, the Japanese aristocracy and imperial court would donate precious objects which they had used in their daily life to a favored Buddhist foundation, where they would be converted to a sacred use. Although Japan’s Buddhist temples were not immune to the passage of time or the civil wars of the twelfth to sixteenth century, they have weathered them better than the mansions of the aristocracy or even the palace of the emperor. Within the treasures of Nara’s great Buddhist foundations, therefore, live on something of Heijo’s aristocratic and imperial households, which are now no more than plots of farmland on the suburbs of modern Nara. However, the relative stability of the imperial household and the court aristocracy over the past fifteen hundred years has meant that sometimes these objects have also managed to survive as treasured heirlooms within the collections of the Imperial Household or of certain aristocratic families who survived the civil wars and other vicissitudes of fortune relatively unscathed.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Honden (main hall), Ise, Mie prefecture.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Hokkedo (also known as Sangatsud6),Todaiji, Nara. 1st half of the 8th century.

Decorative Arts (sixth to eighth centuries)
The greatest such trove was given to the temple of Todaiji on the death of Emperor Shomu in 756. In Shomu’s memory, his consort Komyo donated to his great foundation and “national” temple hundreds of his personal objects, and to house these objects a building was constructed within the temple’s precinct known as the Shosoin. Some idea of the importance of the Shosoin and its links with the imperial family can be gleaned from the fact that these objects are today overseen no longer by the temple, but by the Imperial Household Agency. They not only have shed a great deal of light on the material culture of the Nara period, but, as many of them are products of the Silk Road trade and the workshops of Chang’an, they have also been some of the most important material for the study of Tang-period painting and decorative arts, in addition to those of the other cultures of the Silk Roads, and especially those of Persia.
The style of the Shosoin building is of considerable interest, harking back as it does to architecture of the Yayoi period. Constructed in the granary—or azekura—style, its walls are composed of lengths of triangularly-shaped wood placed one above the other in such a way that at the corners of the building the logs of one side interlock with those of the adjacent wall, obviating the need for the standard post-and- beam construction. The triangular shape results in a smooth wall surface on the inside of the building, and a corrugated one outside. In order to reduce moisture damage to the contents of the storehouse, the body of the structure is raised off the ground by round logs more than 7 feet (2 m) in height, which are set on stone bases. The azekura style of building is frequently seen in temple complexes as a sutra repository, but such structures are rarely as large as the Shosoin, which consists of three separate units joined together. The exact year in which the Shosoin was completed is not known, but it was functioning as a storage facility by 761. In 1953, two new concrete storage facilities were built to house the collection, but eighty years before that it had become a tradition each autumn—after the typhoon season had passed—to remove the objects from the building and air them in the dry autumn atmosphere. A certain kind of homage is still paid every autumn to this rite, when a special exhibition of the collection is held in the Nara National Museum.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

General view ofWakakusadera Horyuji complex, Ikaruga, Nara prefecture. 7th century.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Five storied pagoda, Horyuji. 7th century.

A particularly valuable group of paintings preserved in the Shosoin is a set of six panels from a folding screen, each depicting a beautiful woman standing under a tree (Fig. 51). The screen can be dated between 752 and its donation to the Shosoin in 756. because a scrap of paper bearing the date of 752 was pasted to the backing of one of the panels. Although the painting and subject are both Chinese in style, it is attributed to a Japanese rather than a Chinese artist. The screen is remarkable for the fact that the faces and other exposed areas of the women’s bodies were painted in strong pigments, but the hair and the garments were sketched in black ink, or sumi. Originally, pheasant feathers were pasted to the screens to cover the undetailed areas, imparting to the surface a rich coloration and a tactile quality. However, the importance of the screen is that it documents the knowledge the Japanese had of Chinese figure-painting in the eighth century. The theme, young ladies of the imperial Tang court in China, is a popular one in Chinese imagery of the period, and would have been familiar to the Japanese court fascinated with all things Chinese.
Another work of great interest is a biwa (ch. pipa), a lute, possibly of Chinese manufacture, although this type of instrument did not originate there but further west in Central Asia. Its leather plectrum-guard is decorated with a theme common to painting of the Tang period—musicians and dancers mounted on an elephant and set in a mountainous landscape. Two of the entertainers are Central Asian in appearance, distinguished by their hats and the bony, angular face of the drummer. The other two figures have the dress and coiffure of Chinese children. Such groupings are also found in sculptural form among the ceramic figures of Chinese tombs of the Tang dynasty, although they are more usually mounted on a camel. Central Asian musicians and dancers were in great vogue in the Tang court, and, although the fashion for them died out with the end of the dynasty, their instruments became part of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture.
Equally interesting, however, is the treatment of the background. To the left, tall mountains with deep crevices rise sharply from the gorge through which the elephant and its cargo are passing, and in the distance, to the right, hills cut occasionally by flat plateaux can be seen. This topography, frequently represented in surviving Chinese painting in the Tang style, formed the point of departure for Japanese artists depicting landscape scenes. However, in China, Tang-period landscapes usually have a much harder and even jagged aspect, as opposed to the softness of the rock outlines and vegetal shapes in this painting, which is much more similar to the yamato-e (Japanese-style painting) which would develop from the ninth century onwards.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Entertainers Riding an Elephant, on a plectrum-guard of a biwa. 8th century. Painted leather; (41.7 x 17.5 cm). Shosoin,Todaiji.

It was the fashion of the Tang Chinese elite, and therefore also the Japanese imperial court and aristocracy, to have dining services of gold or silver-gilt vessels. The origin of these wares is to be found in Persia, which had long been famous for its metalworking crafts. Where China had for millennia been foremost in bronze casting, Persia had similarly developed to a fine art the hammering and chasing of precious metals into light and elegant vases, plates, bowls, and ewers. The Tang Chinese greatly admired these wares, and they began producing them in China itself with more Chinese motifs. In this enterprise, they were possibly greatly facilitated by the fall of the Sassanian Persian Empire in c. 64 5 to the Islamic jilwd and the flood of refugees that entered Chang’an in the succeeding years, which presumably included not only princes of the royal house, but also metalworking craftsmen.
One such eighth-century gilt-silver bowl would once possibly have graced the table of a Heijo aristocrat before being donated to a temple for use on the altar or in rituals. The lobed arabesque design is typical of Sassanian shapes, but the chased decoration of ducks and fish betrays a distinctly Chinese taste. Although such bowls never seem to have become a feature of the Japanese metalworking tradition, the aesthetic of a richly-decorated surface, as well as its component parts of an arabesque vegetal design and motifs such as the duck and fish, did resonate with a local aesthetic and can be found throughout the long traditions of all of Japan’s decorative arts.
One immediate example of its impact is a contemporaneous example of a sword scabbard that was among a group of objects placed within the foundation of the kondo (“golden” or “image” hall) of Todaiji as a placatory offering to the local earth deities (Fig. 54). The leather body of the scabbard is inlaid with a gold design depicting a scrolling vine against which fly two ducks. Lifted from the repertoire of motifs also used by the Chinese craftsmen of the gilt-silver bowl, they have nevertheless already been altered in their outline to something that seems much more Japanese.
Since at least the Han dynasty, lacquerware had been one of China’s great export commodities. Lacquer objects were created by starting with, usually, a wooden core, and coating it with numerous layers of the sap of an Asiatic sumac bush. This sap can be colored, and decoration created out of other materials —such as flakes of gold, precious stones, and mother-of-pearl—can also be placed between the lacquer coats and effectively sealed and made smooth. As mentioned in Chapter 1, lacquer was far from unknown to Japanese craftsmen from the Jomon period (c. 11.000-400 b.c.e.) onward, but during the Asuka to Nara periods the local production was greatly influenced by its Tang Chinese counterpart. A Chinese lacquer box decorated on its four sides with boys cavorting with lions could almost have been created for the Japanese market of the period. Certainly the inlaying of the design with mother-of-pearl would become a significant feature of Japanese lacquer decoration, particularly with the lacquer production of the southerly Ryukyu islands.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

East pagoda,Yakushiji, Nara. First half of the 8th century.

The theme of Chinese boys and lions was a favorite theme from the Tang period onward in China. The lion motif originates from Sassanian art while the theme of Chinese boys— symbolic of eternal youth in the Daoist tradition—remains a popular image to this day in China. Both also enter into the Japanese artistic tradition, but are always considered Chinese in context.
Although the Japanese elite were passionate in their adoption of Chinese culture, there were some aspects that they never adopted. One such was the organization of rooms, whether private or public. Unlike China, and ultimately Korea, where interior life, and particularly among the elite, moved off the floor and onto tables, chairs, and other raised furniture, the Japanese way of living in indoor spaces until very recently remained on the floor. In this environment, boxes such as that shown here would have been an essential item of furniture, both for storage—often of documents—and as an impromptu table surface.
The floor surfaces themselves would have been primarily of wood, although in public buildings and Buddhist temples they would have imitated the continental fashion for stone flooring, as they did in roofing with ceramic tiles. On these floors would be placed different kinds of matting, including a kind of felt carpet from Korea, of which the Shosoin also has some examples. What proved of more enduring popularity, however, was a kind of thick, woven reed mat known as the tatami. These came in rectangular form in a variety of sizes, and also in a circular format. They were used both as seating blocks and as beds. As the latter, they would be piled with padded winter robes which served both as mattress and bed linen. Although due to the influence of Chinese custom there were some low chairs and daises, these were used primarily for ceremonial, especially within Buddhist contexts. Generally, however, the Japanese elite would seat themselves on felt rugs or tatami, with more distinguished personages, such as the emperor, being seated on two or three tatami that were piled one atop the other.
The greatest commodity of the Silk Roads was, of course, silk. Although the concept of sericulture had by this period leaked out of China and spread to points west, the Chinese were still the largest and finest producer of the raw material. However, by the seventh century they had come to appreciate what the Persians could do with it. Preserved at the Horyuji in Nara is a stunning silk-brocaded panel made up of medallions featuring archers on winged horses hunting lions. Dating to the seventh century, the panel’s subject is pure Persian with precedents reaching back to the Achaemenid dynasty of the first great Persian Empire in the mid-first millennium b.c.e. This particular piece of fabric was almost certainly made in Persia and transported across the Silk Roads to China. From there it made its way to Japan, where, if twelfth- century records at lioryuji are to be believed, it was the personal property of Prince Shotoku.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Panel with medallions of hunting lions. Chinese, 7th century; 1st mentioned in Kamakura period (I 182-1279) records as having belonged to Prince Shstoku (574-622). Brocaded silk; 98 A x 53 in. (250 x 134.5 cm). Horyu-ji, Nara.

A soft leather wrapping-cloth preserved in the Todaiji displays another motif that became incredibly popular during the seventh and eighth centuries, the scrolling grape vine. There is little evidence for the successful development of this fruit in East Asia, and almost certainly this is, once again, a motif brought from points much further west along the Silk Roads. Another curious feature of this cloth is an identical scene depicted at either end of the cloth, showing two Chinese ascetic-types divided from each other by a tree and each seated on a rocky outcrop. Interestingly one of the figures appears to be playing a form of the qirt (jap. koto), a Chinese instrument, the playing of which became one of the accomplishments of a person of quality and education in Japan.

Shinto
Although the first occurrence of the term Shinto appears only in the Nihon shoki (or Nihongi) of 720, it is clear that the belief systems that it refers to date back much further. Since at least the formation of the Yamato state in the early centuries of the first millennium c.e., there had been the cult of deities from which the house of Yamato was descended, as well as of those with whom these ancestral gods associated. It seems equally clear that, in addition to Izanagi, Izanami, Amaterasu, Susano-o, and Ninigi (not to mention his retinue of five million deities), there were numerous other deities associated with other clans. Furthermore, there were spirits of a more local variety, associated with a part of the landscape or with a particular village. These are of perhaps an even more ancient lineage, conceivably handed down from the Jomon period. As has been demonstrated in Chapter 1, there is ample archaeological evidence for “religious” belief in all three pre and protohistoric periods. How all of these came together to form Shinto is still a matter of much study. However, it is clear that before the introduction of Buddhism they had all been brought together in some fashion, centered around the imperial cult with the sun goddess Amaterasu at their head.

Impact of China and buddhism on Japan

Shinto shrine types. Facades, side views and ground plans, left to right: I. shinmei (shrine at Ise); 2. taisha (shrine at Izumo); 3. nagare (Shrine of Kamo in Kyoto); 4. Kasuga (Kasuga Shrine in Nara); 5. Hachiman (Usa Hachima Shrine, Oita prefecture); 6. Hie (Hie Shrine at Shiga). (From Oriental Architecture, Electa Editrice, Milan, drawings by Studio of Enzo di Grazia, after Ota Hirotaro.)

By the eighth century and its first mention in the Nihon shoki, Shinto had also been considerably influenced by Chinese Confucianism and Daoism. Confucianism (and other Chinese logical and legalistic schools of philosophy grouped together under its umbrella) formed the core of the philosophy of government throughout East Asia, and particularly of the Japanese reforms of the seventh and eighth centuries. Its impact on Shinto, however, can largely be found in the parallels between Confucianism’s reverence for one’s ancestors and concepts behind the imperial ancestral cult and those of the great clans. Daoism, however, had a much deeper impact. The Dao (Chinese for “The Way”) refers to the philosophy of the great sage Laozi (sixth century b.c.e.), which looks for a balance between the yin (negative) and yang (positive) within all things. By the second century c.E„ a great variety of smaller movements had come together to establish the single dominant strain which is today known as Daoism, and its temples and priests gathered into their pantheon all the animistic and local traditions that continued (and continue) to flourish in China. The Tang dynasty considered themselves to be descendants of Laozi, and saw themselves and their court as an earthly mirror of that of the celestial Jade Emperor who headed the Daoist pantheon.
There were many parallels, therefore, between the Yamato cult of the seventh to eighth centuries and Daoism, especially as it was espoused by the Tang dynasty. Inevitably, the organization of the Chinese Daoist community and of its temples, like all other things Chinese, had some impact on the organization of what came to be known as Shinto. Shinto is, in fact, a Chinese-style reading of the Chinese characters for “Way of the Gods” (ch. Xiandao), kami no michi being the Japanese reading of those same characters.
It is still a matter of much debate whether the Shinto of the Nihon shoki is at all the same as that which emerged at the end of the Heian period in the twelfth century. The Shinto of the Nara and early Heian periods was perhaps, much more overtly Chinese than that which existed by the twelfth century, by which time there had been a reaction against the overwhelming influence of China on court and culture. However, in general, Shinto is organized around the heavenly gods led by Amaterasu and the earthly gods led by her brother Susano-o. The Japanese term for the gods is “kami,” and they are unseen and often awe-inspiring. While the great imperial ancestors can be at times depicted in human form (as in the dances relating the imperial origins), most of the time they are not. The sun goddess, Amaterasu, for example, is almost always depicted in the form of the mirror that the gods placed in her cave in order to coax her back into the world. The vast majority of kami are believed to inhabit such natural phenomena as rocks, trees, waterfalls, and mountains. Indeed, if a tree is particularly ancient, it will be considered to be inhabited by a kami, and a backwards-wound rope (shimenawa) will be placed around it to demarcate its sanctity.
With the defeat of the anti-Buddhist forces in 587, Buddhism came increasingly to dominate the spiritual concerns of the court and aristocracy, and the eighth century, when the capital was at Nara, was its time of greatest influence. However, the ritual of the court and of each clan remained resolutely focused on Shinto observances, probably not a little preserved by the enduring and growing power at court of the clan with hereditary rights as Shinto priests—the Nakatomi and their principal branch, the Fujiwara. Efforts were made to demonstrate the harmonious relationship between Shinto and Buddhism. One such exercise in rapprochement occurred in 743, when Emperor Shomu pledged the building of Todaiji, which was intended to rival anything, even in China. An imperial messenger was sent to the principal Shinto shrine at Ise to ask the will of Amaterasu. Her response was that she and Birushana Buddha were aspects of the same reality. This was only one among the many interactions between Buddhism and Shinto in the Nara and Heian periods that facilitated harmony between the two religions. Finally, in the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the relationship was formalized in the system of Ryobu Shinto. Therefore, by the time that Buddhism became a truly popular religion in Japan, it had been well established by the government what one owed to Shinto knmi in terms of observances, and what one owed to Buddha. This is certainly a balance that was never successfully achieved in China, either within the elite or on a popular level.
Shinto Architecture
The elements essential to worship of a knmi are first of all the iwakiira. the natural site at which he or she has taken up residence. The iwakiira is usually represented by a wooden shrine within an enclosure, to which a special type of gate, or torii.
gives access. Torii are two posts surmounted by two lintels with a slightly concave curve (see, for example, the torii at the entrance to the Kasuga Shrine in Fig. 198). The actual ritual of worship consists of three elements: prayers, obeisance, and offerings. The supplicant climbs the steps to the upper level of a shrine and pulls a cord that rings a gong to alert the god. Prayers are then offered, followed by a deep bow of perhaps a minute in length, and finally offerings are made.
Today these consist of food and drink and sometimes a piece of paper cut in a widening zigzag design and attached to a stick of new wood or a twig from the sacred sakaki tree, intended to symbolize the cloth that was once included in the gifts to a deity. In the past, however, these offerings have taken many forms, including personal objects and those for ritual use. Excavations of ritual sites, such as those at the Omiyame Shrine in present-day Kyoto, have demonstrated that in the sixth and seventh centuries offerings still took the form of the stone beads and magatama that have been found either as grave goods or ritual offerings at excavation sites dating from the Jomon period onward.
The enclave consists of an outer shrine, or gekfi. dedicated to the provider of grain, and an inner shrine, or naiku, dedicated to Amaterasu. To reach the naikii, one must pass beneath the distinctive torii gateway. The pathway to the shrine runs parallel to a river, and immediately to the right, in front of the torii, is a long, narrow stone basin filled with water for rinsing the mouth and hands. Alternatively, one can continue further into the precinct and perform the same purification ritual in the clear waters of the river. (Originally, worshippers waded through the shallow river to reach the shrine.) Next, one climbs a gentle slope through a forest of cedar trees to the foot of a flight of stone- bordered steps that leads up to a solid wooden gate in a wooden fence. This outermost wooden fence of the enclosure at the top consists of boards so closely fitted together that it is impossible to see inside to the actual buildings, which are, in any case, enclosed within three additional fences. The mirror is placed in the honden at Ise, and the honden of other Shinto shrines also contain such offerings.The last reconstruction at Ise in 1993 was the sixty-first, the tradition having been suspended during several periods of strife, particularly during the tumultuous thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. In addition to the main enclosure, there are many smaller shrine buildings within the precinct. Although the honden itself is of a construction that harks back to Yayoi- type granaries, many of the other buildings are of much later structural styles—at present reflecting the architecture of the Edo period (1615-1868), such as a ceremonial rice granary, stable, support buildings for the priesthood and the administration of the shrine, and a hall for the performance of the sacred dances known as the kagura.
The building styles of the honden at Ise and at Izumo, Shinto’s second most important shrine, both derive from the Yayoi-period raised granary, and it is thought that this type of structure, elevated as it is above all the other buildings, would first have been appropriated by the headman or shaman during the .early Yayoi, and in later centuries became the obvious dwelling place for the ancient gods. Freestanding pillars at the short ends of the building add further support for the roof, and along the ridgepole are ten katsuogi, logs intended to weigh down the roofing material, originally thatch, today the bark of the cypress tree. Extending up from a point near the ends of the roof are two thin-sawn boards with gold-leaf ornamentation. These are chigi, originally extensions of the outermost rafters at each end of the gable, and a common feature of shrine architecture. A similar motif at the Izumo shrine appears as two Xs sitting on the ridgepole. Ise displays a Japanese taste for the look of aging wood. The buildings are beautiful when new, and also as they darken with time, until after twenty years the grey, weathered wood is replaced to renew the iwakura. Many later shrines, following the example of Buddhist temples, were painted red.
The shrine at Izumo, on the west coast in Shimane prefecture, may possibly predate Ise. The Izumo taisha, (grand shrine), is dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto, reputedly a fifth- or sixth-generation descendant of Amaterasu’s brother Susano-o no Mikoto, who gave aid to Ninigi upon his descent from heaven. When Susano-o was banished from heaven for outraging his sister, he descended to Izumo, where he slew an eight-tailed dragon that had eaten eight of the nine daughters of an old couple who lived there. In one of the dragon’s tails Susano-o found a magnificent sword, known as Kusanagi (Grass Cutter), which he gave to Amaterasu, who in turn ultimately gave it to Ninigi as one of the Sanshu no jingi of his imperial regalia. Okuninushi no Mikoto is credited with the introduction of medicine, fishing, and sericulture.
In addition to the taisha and shinmei zukuri configurations of Shinto honden, three more official Shinto types (and a few subsidiary ones) were developed in the succeeding Heian period, bringing Shinto architecture much more in line with developments in both Buddhist architecture and that of the aristocratic palaces.
Buddhism
Shakyamuni’s teachings were based on the age-old Indian concept of interdependent origination—or karma (jap. go). That is. each moment arises out of a multitude of causes and conditions and in turn conditions the next moment. Thus the soul is repeatedly reincarnated and the nature of those reincarnations is created by karma. If one’s karma is bad. then the soul will have a lowly reincarnation, perhaps even subhuman. If one’s karma is good, then one will have an improvement in the next incarnation, perhaps even being elevated into the ranks of the gods. It was the Buddha’s particidar understanding, however, that this whole karmic cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and the entire universe that it supposedly supported (that is, the universe we exist in), was in fact a great and self- perpetuating illusion, it is the goal of the Buddhist practitioner to break through these illusions and the endless cycle of reincarnation and realize the true nature of things thus achieving true bliss—or nirvana, which is often equated with emptiness.
In northern India, followers of Buddhism formed themselves into a community during the Buddha’s lifetime, which further evolved and expanded after his death. Those who chose, like the Buddha’s disciples, to live separate from the world and not as householders became an important component of this community. From these monks and nuns, who were the core of the community, came the teachers who proselytized the message of Buddhism. However, the majority of the community always existed as laymen and women. By the beginning of the first millennium c.e., Buddhism was actively spreading beyond the confines of India into Central Asia and subsequently was to arrive in China by no later than the second century c.e. By the fifth century it had infiltrated to the Korean kingdoms, and by the sixth century it had finally arrived in Japan.
In each case, Buddhism made a terrific impact, especially with the elites of these nations, and quickly the newly established Buddhist communities founded rich and powerful—and not infrequently royally and imperially sponsored—temples, monasteries, and convents. It has been theorized that one of the concepts of Buddhism that attracted Indian and Central and East Asian rulers and their elites to Buddhism was not simply the persuasive elegance of its belief system, but also a particular aspect of it—the concept of the chakravartin, or universal ruler. Probably derived from an ancient Indian concept of kingship, within Buddhism the chakravartin came to represent a secular version of the Buddha. Therefore, a ruler could be recognized by a Buddhist community as a chakravartin, and for all the Buddhist faithful that ruler would thenceforth be recognized as having a kind of divine right to rule. In return, the ruler would protect and foster Buddhism within his domain.
Many different varieties of Buddhist which will be introduced in the succeeding pages. However, some notion of hierarchy is a useful starting point. Most importantly, there is the Buddha, meaning the so-called Historical Buddha Shakyamuni (jap. Shaka). Just below the Buddha are the bodhisattvas (jap. bosatsu), who are great beings that have achieved Enlightenment but have resolved not to enter nirvana until every last being has achieved that same state. To these must be added a whole host of other manifestations of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, in addition to the gods and creatures of ancient Indian cosmology. The gods in particular, usually drawn from the Vedic pantheon of ancient India, quite often are converted to Buddhism and become its protectors.
As it developed in India from around 410 b.c.e. to c. 500 c. e.. Buddhism divided into three principal traditions out of which all the schools of Buddhism in Japan have evolved. The earliest of these has come to be termed by the later strains as the Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”: jap. Shojo). It developed the basic concepts of the Buddhist community, both monastic and lay, and also gathered together all the sutras and writings into the first the Buddhist canon—the “Three Baskets” or Sanzo (skt. Tripitika). The third great Buddhist tradition is the Mantrayana, more commonly known as Tantric Buddhism (jap. Kongojo). The tantric philosophies began developing out of the Mahayana in India by at least the mid first millennium c.e. Tantra, in fact, refers to a literary genre distinct from the sutras. While the latter are the collected words of Shaka Buddha’s earthly manifestation, the tantra are the words of the celestial Buddhas transmitted through visions to great earthly masters. These tantric schools reached China soon after their formulation in India, and from there spread to the rest of East Asia.
Buddhism’s Introduction to Japan
Paekche’s embassy to the Yamato court of 552 brought with it Buddhist scriptures or sutras, an image of the Shaka Buddha, and various ritual implements. Unfortunately the same year a terrible epidemic broke out throughout the archipelago. and its cause was interpreted to be the wrath of the native deities at the incursion of this foreign doctrine, and Buddhism was officially proscribed by Emperor Kimmei (r. 540-71). The small temple that had been erected for Buddhist worship was burned down, and its image was broken into pieces and thrown into the Naniwa Canal in what is now present-day Osaka.
In 584, in the reign of Kimmei’s successor Bidatsu (r. 572-86), emissaries from Paekche again brought Buddhist gifts, this time an image of Shaka and also one of the Future Buddha, Miroku (skt. Maitreya). Within Buddhist cosmology as it had developed by the sixth century, Shaka was only the latest of innumerable Buddhas who over countless millions of years had manifested on the earth in order to spread the Dharma. As we are still in the age of Shaka, Miroku exists in the Tosotsu (skt. Tushita) heaven as a bodhisattva until the age of his Buddhahood, when he will descend to the earth. He is therefore either represented as a meditating and youthful bodhisattva awaiting his Buddhahood, or as a Buddha already, newly enthroned. Miroku was the focus of a saviour cult that was popular across Asia, particularly in the fifth and sixth centuries. Indeed, nowhere perhaps more than in Korea, where the image of the youthful, meditating Miroku becomes one of the most recognizable of Buddhist icons.
When these new Paekche images arrived, Soga no Umako asked for the images and sent a man by the name of Shiba Tatto, a Chinese immigrant who worked for the horse- trappings guild, to scour the country for Buddhist practitioners. A former monk was found, and three young women, including Tatto’s daughter, became nuns. However, when Umako tried to persuade the emperor to accept Buddhism as a national religion, the leader of the Mononobe clan destroyed Umako’s new-built temple, burnt the Buddha images, and had the nuns stripped and publicly flogged. The Nihon shoki records that a pestilence once again broke out, causing its victims to feel as if they were being consumed by fire, as the Buddha images had been. The emperor therewith relented the proscription and allowed Umako to practice unmolested, but not to proselytize.
Three years later in 587, during the reign of Emperor Yomei (r. 586-88), the Soga clan. Prince Shotoku, and the Otomo (hereditary imperial bodyguards) made their bid for power against the anti-Buddhist Nakatomi and the Mononobe. who oversaw the national armory. Although the Soga/Shotoku faction ultimately won this civil war, Emperor Yomei did not long survive it, and in 588 Umako’s nephew Sushun ascended the imperial throne (Umako’s sister had been a consort of Emperor Kimmei). As mentioned in the previous chapter in connection with his suspected burial in the Fujinoki Tomb, in 592 Sushun was assassinated—because he objected to this uncle’s interference in government affairs. Sushun’s sister Suiko then ascended the throne, Umako was appointed her chief minister, and Prince Shotoku acted as both her regent and heir apparent.
In Suiko’s reign (593-629), Buddhism took full root amongst the elite of Japan, quickly growing to a position of prominence that remained unchallenged for the next thousand years. Shotoku, who died in 622, was a leading figure in promoting the adoption of Buddhism. As regent he took a leading role in the sinification of the court, but he also did a great deal to integrate Buddhism into his governmental reforms. Soga no Umako and Shotoku are perhaps the most important Buddhist patrons of the Asuka period (552-645). Umako’s support in particular became as lavish as it was conspicuous. He founded the Asukadera (known today as Gangoji or Angoin), the first full-fledged Buddhist complex to be built in Japan. Shotoku founded the Shitennoji (in the environs of present-day Osaka) and the Wakakusadera, later renamed Horytiji, in the area that would become the capital city of Heijo (later Nara).
By the reigns of Tenmu (r. 673-86) and Empress Jito (r. 686-97), the idea of Buddhism as the nation’s protector was being publicly pronounced, and this empowerment of the Buddhist community accelerated with the move from Fujiwara to Heijo, where centers for the six schools of Buddhism that flourished in Japan were established. The first of these was the Sanron (Three Treatises), introduced to Japan c. 625 and based on the Mahayana philosophy developed by Nagarjuna and his disciple Aryadeva in the early centuries c.e. The second was the Jojitsu, introduced from Paekche, as was the Sanron with which it soon merged. The third was the Hosso (skt. Yogacara; ch. Faxiang), introduced about 650 by the monk Dosho, who had studied in China, and which espoused a Mahayana philosophy that argued the ultimate existence of the mind (i.e., that the mind is not part of the illusion of the rest of existence). The fourth school. Kusha, appeared about the same time as Hosso and took as its basis the Mahayana philosophy of the Indian Vasubandhu (fourth century), which focused on the analysis of phenomena through the Buddha’s vision, including the ordering of the universe. The fifth school, Kegon, was based on the Kegonkyo, or Garland sutra (skt. Avatamsakasutra; ch. Huayanji), which focuses on Shaka as a manifestation of the supreme, universal Birushana (skt. Vairocana) Buddha (see below). The Kegon school became particularly prominent, developing elaborate rituals that appealed to the monarchy. And the sixth school was the Ritsu (skt. Vinaya; ch. Liizong).
The Vinaya also forms one part of the Buddhist canon— the Three Baskets or Sanzo—and includes the texts that lay down the rules one must follow in life, whether as a monk, nun, or householder, in order to work towards Enlightenment. The Vinaya school as it developed in China and Japan focused on early. Hinayana Buddhist philosophy and particularly that which translated the Buddha’s teachings into codes by which one should live one’s life.
During the reign of Shomu (r. 724-49). Buddhism and its works became the focus of not only the court, but the entire government and aristocracy. In 741, and again in 743, he decreed the establishment of a monastery and a nunnery in each province. However, for Shomu, the Kegon sutra was the authoritative Buddhist text, and likewise the Kegon the authoritative Buddhist school. In 743. he ordered the construction of a national temple to house the Kegon school, the Todaiji, and the creation of a colossal Birushana Buddha to serve as its principal image. Unlike Shaka and Miroku, Birushana is not an earthly manifestation of Buddhahood.
The apogee of the Todaiji project came in 752, in the eye-opening ceremony. Never again, until the end of the World War II, would a Japanese emperor, no matter how devout a Buddhist practitioner, come so close to setting aside the importance of his own divine descent. The precedent for Shomu’s policy of constructing a series of provincial Buddhist institutions, each linked to a central, mother temple in the capital, can be found in the policy of the pro-Buddhist interregnum of Empress Wu (r. 684-705) in China, who more than any other Tang ruler used Buddhism as a tool for controlling a country that considered it not only abnormal for a woman to hold the imperial throne, but that she had usurped it from her son. It is not at all surprising that Shomu. with the Yamato house’s enduring problem during these early centuries of maintaining their imperial authority, would look to the effectiveness of this example from China’s recent past.
During the reign of Shomu’s successor and daughter, the Buddhist clergy gained such an influence at court that it was ultimately decided by the aristocracy that something would have to be done about it. Koken, in fact, served as empress twice: during her first reign, from 749 to 758, she was known as Koken, and during her second, from 764 to 770, she took the name of Shotoku. She had as one of her closest advisers the monk Dokyo of the Hosso school, and he attempted to persuade the empress to appoint him as her heir apparent. The leaders of the most powerful clans managed to block his ambitions, and, following the death of the empress in 770, forced Dokyo into exile. Thereafter it became policy that no woman should hold the throne, a precedent that has been followed with only two exceptions down to the present day: Meisho (r. 1630-43) and Gosakuramachi (r. 1762-70). Further inspired by these events, the government began to consider rebuilding the capital elsewhere, away from Nara and the power centers of the six Buddhist schools.
Following the civil war of 587, both Soga no Umako and Prince Shotoku undertook the building of the first great
Buddhist foundations. As mentioned. Umako built the Asukadera in the Asuka Valley, and Shotoku built the Shitennoji in the region of present-day Osaka and the Wakakusadera on the outskirts of present-day Nara. Completed about 593, the Shitennoji has burnt to the ground many times in the course of the centuries, the most recent destruction taking place in World War П. In its latest incarnation, the temple was rebuilt in reinforced concrete on the original foundations and math an attempt to simulate the post- and-lintel construction of the old wooden structure.
Asukadera, begun about 588 and completed by 596, survived the decimation of the Soga clan in 645 and became one of the principal edifices of the first permanent capital, Fujiwara-kyo. However, it too was largely destroyed by fire in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and was never rebuilt. Extensive excavations carried out in the 1950s uncovered the original foundations, roof tiles, and many interesting details of the temple.
Shotoku’s second foundation, Wakakusadera, was completed in the first decade of the seventh century, but was destroyed by fire in 670. Its rebuilding was started immediately, but only completed by 711, by which time it had become part of the new capital of Heijo. and it was renamed Horyuji. Much of the temple’s history as the Wakakusadera can be pieced together from primary sources such as the Nihon shoki, inscriptions on extant sculptures of the period, and later temple records, and from such secondary sources as recent excavations at the site. What we can gather from the literary evidence is that shortly after Prince Shotoku took up residence in his palace at Ikaruga (in the Nara area) in the early 600s, Wakakusadera was erected adjacent to it. The temple rebuilt in 711 survives virtually intact to this day, providing an assemblage of some of the oldest wooden sculptures in the world.
In speaking of Japanese Buddhist architecture, the word “temple” can, and usually does, refer to an entire site and its complex of buildings. The suffixes -tern or -dera and -ji refer to a temple where there are images for veneration and where ritual ceremonies are performed by the monks or nuns living there. The suffix -dera is the Japanese reading of the Chinese character for temple, si, while -ji is the Chinese-style pronunciation of the same character. Toward the end of the seventh century, it was decreed that all Japanese Buddhist temples should have names with this Chinese-style of reading, so when Wakakusadera, Temple of Young Grass, was rebuilt, it was renamed Horyuji, Temple of the Exalted Law. Often a temple complex will be divided into smaller units, precincts, which are designated by the suffix in italics.
The most important buildings in early Japan ese temples were the entrance gate (cluunon: literally central gate), which was set within a roofed cloister encircling the principal worship structures, the pagoda, and the kondo or golden hall (which also came in some temples to be called the homlo or main hall, which contained the temple’s principal altar and images. Necessary support buildings, such as the refectory, kitchen, and living quarters of the monks, were built outside the precinct walls.
The information gleaned from the excavations of Shitennoji (Temple of the Four Guardian Kings), Wakakusadera, and its replacement Horyuji, as well as of Asukadera, suggests that Buddhist architecture in the Asuka and Hakuho periods drew on a number of different Korean models. Asukadera was built on the model of Koguryo temples—Chonganni in particular, which consisted of three large kondo arranged around three sides of a square pagoda, the entire cluster surrounded by a roofed corridor, or cloister, penetrated by a single entrance gate (Fig. 63). Outside the main worship compound were separate support structures: a sutra repository (kyozo), a belfry (shoro) and a lecture hall {kodo). Judging by the tiles originally nailed to the exposed ends of the kondo roof rafters, they were massive round supports, capping a building of impressive dimensions. By contrast, Shitennoji (Figs 64 and 65) and Wakakusadera (Figs 66 and 67)—also based on Korean prototypes, in this case of Paekche—employed an axial layout with a pagoda and a single kondo distributed along the median line of a rectangle enclosed by a roofed cloister pierced by a single entrance gate. As was the case with Asukadera, outside the main worship compound were support buildings: a sutra repository, a belfry, a refectory, and quarters for the monks.
According to the Nihon shoki, by 624 Japan could boast of forty-six Buddhist temples, while by 694 they had multiplied to a staggering 545. In addition it is clear from Hakuho temple buildings, and their artifacts, that new styles and techniques of architecture, painting, and sculpture were constantly being imported from the continent and then mastered by Japanese craftsmen.
When Fujiwara was laid out as the capital, the four major temples of Asukadera, Kawaradera (built 662-7), Daikandaiji (6 7 3), and Yakushij i (680) were already in existence and were incorporated into the plan of the city. Of these four, only Yakushiji (now relocated to the Nara region) has survived in anything like its original form. After the removal of the capital to Heijo in 710, Gangoji was built on completely different lines to that of the original Asukadera, but Yakushiji was rebuilt following exactly the scale of the original temple at Fujiwara. The only other temple surviving from the pre-eighth century in anything like its original form is Wakakusadera/Horyiiji. Because of its age, its state of preservation, and its association with Prince Shotoku, Horyuji has been accorded greater importance by art historians than it was by the court in the late seventh century. By those standards it was a provincial temple. Had it not been the private temple of Prince Shotoku. undoubtedly it would not have been reconstructed when it burnt down in 6 70.
The kondo in a sense fulfills one of the purposes of the chaitya hall of ancient India, which consisted of a high central hall flanked by two lower aisles—not unlike the plan of Christian churches that would develop in western Europe some centuries later. In the chaitya, monks could assemble in the open central space, but they could also individually perform the rite of circumambulation around the stupa. They did not provide a central nave for assembly, but the placement of the altar in the center of the hall, with an open area around it. facilitated the rite of circumambulation.
The relics are contained within the stupa hemisphere, which in India is capped by a harmika, or little palace, intended as a residence of divinity. This is matched on the pagoda by a copper structure called a sorin, extending skyward from the top of the pillar and the uppermost roof, and consisting of an inverted bowl shape (fuku bachi) on a saucerlike “dew basin” (roban), and above it a shaft that projects upward. The origin of the pagoda’s sorin is the configuration of the harmika surmounted by a shaft bearing three or more umbrellas, the ancient symbol of both royalty and divinity. Attached to its shaft are nine rings (kurin) topped by an openwork “water flame” design (suien), a form known as the dragon wheel (ryUsha), and at the very top the sacred jewel of Buddhist wisdom, the hoshu (skt. Chintamani).
The organization of the Horyuji compound is an example of beautifully balanced asymmetry. Unlike the plan of the Shitennoji, the chwnon has been set slightly off center into one of the long cloister walls. At first it was thought that some accident of the temple’s history must account for the similar asymmetric placement of the kondo and pagoda in the courtyard, but, as new excavations have shown, in the latter half of the seventh century there was a good deal of experimentation with temple layouts when the rebuilding of Shotoku’s private temple was undertaken in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. Although the kondo occupies more ground space than the pagoda, the soaring height of the latter balances the relatively low proportions of the former. The orientation of the kondo and pagoda along a line just north of the longitudinal median line of the compound meant that the distance from the front cloister to the fagade of the kondo was greater than the distance from the rear wall of the hall to the back of the compound, thus permitting a better vista of the buildings when passing through the chUmon.
The proportions of the pagoda and the kondo are particularly satisfying because of the diminution from one story to the next. The fifth story of the pagoda is approximately half the width of the first story, giving the structure a feeling of lightness and stability not found in later buildings. The roofs are made with square rafters. The pillars of the pagoda’s lower story are massive, round wooden columns, decreasing in diameter toward the top, a device called entasis also found in Classical Greek architecture to counteract the impression of concavity at the top of tall, round pillars. The brackets supporting the eaves are of a stylized cloud-shape—accentuating the concept of an ascent into the heavens—and have a strong three-dimensional presence.
The miniature kondo of the Horyflji’s portable Tamamushi Shrine is, in fact, the earliest extant evidence of Japanese Buddhist architecture. The miniature building has bracket arms extending outward and upward to support the wide overhanging eaves. The roofing tiles are applied in such a way that the junction of the gable and hipped roof is clearly indicated by the round tiles at the end of the upper rafters. This style of tile application is believed to have been used at Asukadera, but, by the time Wakakusadera/Horyuji’s kondo was rebuilt, the line of the gable curved gently into the hipped section without any break. Shibi are said to represent sea-dwelling mammals like the dolphin. They are found on the roofs of temples and castles in the Edo period (1615-1868)but are rare in the seventh and eighth centuries, appearing only on the Tamamushi Shrine and the kondo of Toshodaiji. Another unusual detail of the Tamamushi building is the stylized cloud shape of the bracket arms under the eaves. This type of bracket appears on temples of the Asuka and Hakuho periods, but is not found afterward.
Yakushiji
The history of Yakushiji begins with Fujiwara’s founder, Emperor Tenmu, who in 680 pledged to build the temple when his consort Jito was afflicted with an eye disease and it was feared that she might go blind. Yakushi, known also as the Medicine Buddha (skt. Bhaishajyaguru), had long been a popular deity, Wakakusadera reputedly being built by Shotoku in order to house an image of this Buddha. According to Buddhist thought, Yakushi Buddha is like a doctor, the disciple like the sick person, and the Dharma like the remedy for his illness. However, in the popular imagination, this Buddha could also be applied to for the resolution of more mundane afflictions. For some reason, the actual building of the temple was deferred until after Tenmu’s death in 686, but it appears to have been completed by 697, three years after the occupation of the new city, in which it stood in a prominent location. Of the twenty-four temples integrated into the design of Fujiwara, Yakushiji was one of the most important, and by 718 work had commenced on its reconstruction in the environs of the new capital of Heijo. Clearly Yakushiji, being of fairly recent foundation and an imperially sponsored temple, had a unique significance, both historical and religious for the eighth-century court. It already had a Chinese- style name, unlike the older Asukadera, which in its new incarnation of Gangoji was given a completely new layout.
The main compound of Yakushiji has a hondo (another term for the kondo, meaning “main hall”) and two pagodas, in addition to a lecture hall incorporated into the cloister wall. Of these buildings, only the east pagoda remains from the early eighth-century construction, but recently the hondo and west pagoda have been reconstructed in their original style, restoring the compound to something close to its original appearance. The plan of the Yakushiji was a remarkable departure from earlier temple complexes, such as either the Asukadera or Wakakusadera. The emphasis was placed on the Hondo, which is a towering, two-storied structure immediately visible as one enters the temple precinct. The two smaller pagodas are of diminished importance in the ritual life of the Yakushiji, and they are placed near the perimeter mTall of the cloister on either side of a path leading to the hondo, in front of which there is ample room for a large assembly to gather for viewing the image of Yakushi Buddha and his attendant bodhisattvas inside.
The most striking stylistic innovation in the building of the Yakushiji is the use of the double-roof system (mokoshi) for each story of the hondo and pagodas. The east pagoda is a three-storied structure with a mokoshi added at each level (Fig. 76). The result is a building at once more stable and more buoyant than the Horyuji pagoda. Enhancing this impression are the system of three-stepped brackets and the latticed ceilings beneath the rafters, which allow more light to penetrate under the eaves. Today the Yakushiji pagoda stands as a unique example of this style.
Kofukuji
The site chosen for the temple complex was a sixteen-block area on a plateau at the foot of Mount Mikasa overlooking Heijo to the west. Further up the slope of the mountain, the Fujiwara also established their own private Shinto shrine, the Kasuga, which in the centuries to come would continue to grow and flourish under this powerful family’s patronage (see Fig. 198). The Yakushiji and Gango ji occupied only nine city blocks each, while temples of the second rank such as Toshodaiji, the main post-Todaiji project, occupied only four blocks, and minor temples were allotted only one.
Clearly Fujiwara no Fuhito was one of the most influential men of the day. It was on his father that the surname of Fujiwara had been conferred by the emperor, and it was also Fuhito who was a key figure in the drawing up of the code of laws known as the Taiho Ritsuryo, which were promulgated in 701, and modeled closely on those of the Tang. It was revised in 718, and thereafter remained in use until 1858. Fuhito was also successful in marrying several daughters into the imperial family. Thus he had the freedom to build his clan temple and shrine in as magnificent a manner as he wished, without censure from the emperor.
As originally conceived, the temple consisted of three image halls, or kondo, in addition to such support buildings as a lecture hall, a sutra repository, a belfry, a refectory, and quarters for the monks. The focal point of the main cloister is the central kondo. The one pagoda at Kofukuji is located to the east, in a separate enclave with the eastern kondo. The western kondo is also located outside the main enclosure. Thus on entering the chUmon into the cloister, one would, in fact, encounter only the single central kondo. In 721, the year after the death of Fuhito, a new type of building, the so-called round hall, actually an octagon, was built to the north of the western kondo to honor him. A similar hall, also dating to the early eighth century, the Yumedono, or Hall of Dreams, was built at Horyuji to honor Prince Shotoku and today houses the Yumedono Kannon (see Fig. 89), one of the most famous sculptures dating from this period. This octagonal type of building seems to have usurped the function of the pagoda as a reliquary repository.
The Kofukuji complex was intended not only as a place for worship, but also as a monastic university. In addition, the temple staffed a Mercy Hall, which offered aid to the needy, orphans, and the elderly, and a Medicine Hall, which served as a kind of hospital or clinic. The garden, in which flowers for the many altars in the temple were grown, was open to the laity for their enjoyment and recreation.
Tddaiji:The Nation’s Temple
Up the hill from Kofukuji stands the magnificent project of Emperor Shomu, the temple complex of Todaiji. The building of this temple and the casting of its colossal Birushana Buddha were the most important projects undertaken by the court, the clergy, and the Japanese people in the eighth century. At the time that Emperor Shomu ordered the temple’s construction, he was living at a place called Shigaraki in Omi province (present-day Shiga prefecture) and work on the buildings was begun there. However, in 745 he moved back to Nara, and land surrounding the hermitage of the famous Kegon master Roben was then selected for the new temple. The area allotted for Todaiji was equivalent to sixty-four city blocks.
.Two pagodas were included in the original plan, enormous seven-storied structures 330 feet (101 m) tall, each contained within a separate cloister. To the north of these was the main compound, which consisted of the hondo, more commonly known as the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) as it houses the colossal image of Birushana Buddha (Fig. 78), and two cloisters enclosing, respectively, front and back courtyards on either side of the Daibutsuden. Directly behind the Daibutsuden in the rear courtyard was the lecture hall (kodo). surrounded on three sides by quarters for the monks. The refectory was a separate building with its own enclosed courtyard. The imperial clan’s storehouse, the Shosoin, is located far to the northwest of the Daibutsuden, while the Hokkedo, or Flail of the Lotus Sutra, the oldest extant building in the Todaiji complex, is a short climb up the hill to the east.
The Daibutsuden is a huge building by any standards, eleven bays long by seven bays deep, forming a rectangle some 285 x 170 feet (87 x 52 m) and measuring 154 feet (47 m) at the ridgepole—far larger than the audience hall of the imperial palace. Some idea of the scale and the magnificence of the Daibutsuden and its colossal Buddha can be gained from a twelfth-century emaki, or narrative scroll, the Shigisan engi emaki. The last section of the story, told in words and pictures, deals with an elderly nun journeying to Nara to pray to the Great Birushana image for a revelation of her younger brother’s whereabouts. We see her to the right at the doorsill. looking up reverently as she prays to the Buddha. Then she sleeps through the night near the base of the statue, and the next day makes her farewells, having been told in a dream where to look for her brother. The story and the illustration testify to the importance of Todaiji and the authority of the Birushana image, which survived the removal of the capital to Heian. The Daibutsuden was burnt to the ground in 1.180 in the Genpei Civil War, but was immediately rebuilt and a new colossal image of Birushana cast.

Toshodaiji
In 754, the Chinese monk Jianzhen (688-763), known in Japanese as Ganjin, arrived in Nara with the express purpose of establishing the Ritsu school, which adhered strictly to the codes by which monk, nun, and householder must live their lives in order to follow the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Most importantly Ganjin also brought the correct, complete ritual of ordination for the Buddhist clergy. Buddhist law required a properly ordained cleric to perform the ritual, but. despite the fact that monks from the continent had visited Japan, some staying for many years, there seems to have been no one who, before Ganjin, could conduct the ceremony properly. Therefore, in 755, an ordination platform was built at Todaiji and some four hundred people, including the imperial consort Komyo, were properly ordained. Whatever the reason. Ganjin preferred not to take up residence at Todaiji, but instead retired to a separate temple of his own. And in 759 the first steps towards the building of Toshodaiji were taken.
Toshodaiji is the best-surviving example of the construction style typical of the second half of the Nara period, and particularly the style of buildings in which those of Todaiji would have originally been built. As a private temple built with donations from aristocratic families of the capital, primarily the Fujiwara, it occupied a four-block site in the western part of the capital, very near Yakushiji. There are no clear records concerning the dates at which specific buildings were completed. The logical choice for the first building would have been the kondo, but it is quite possible that instead it was the kddd, or lecture hall, because the principal reason for building the temple was in order to provide Ganjin and the newly established Ritsu school with a base for their teachings. This building was first constructed as the East Morning Hall in the Imperial Palace, but was subsequently dismantled and donated to Toshodaiji, possibly before Ganjin’s death in 763. However, it is certain that the rest of the complex was not finished until the ninth century, when the capital had already removed to Heian-kyo. The main area, of course, consisted of the kondo and chUmon, linked by a roofed cloister that enclosed a rectangular courtyard between the two structures, in the manner of both Kofukuji and Todaiji.
The roof is a simple hipped shape with no crowning gable. The height of the ridgepole was raised 8 feet (2.5 m) in the Edo period, making the pitch of the roof much steeper. The original, lower eighth century roof would have better complemented the horizontality of the building, whereas the later roof gives it a heavier appearance.
The son, Tori Busshi, appears to have become the prin- cipal sculptor working for Soga no Umako and Prince Shotoku in the early seventh century and is credited with executing the Shaka image for Asukadera in 606, the Yakushi Buddha image for Wakakusadera (later Horyuji) in 607, and also, surviving at Horyuji, the magnificent Shaka Triad by Tori, the Buddha flanked by two bodhisattvas, dated by an inscription on the back of the halo to 623.
In the single remaining kondo of the original Asukadera temple is a seated, gilt-bronze statue of Shaka about 10 feet (3 m) high. Although the image has been much restored over the centuries, it retains many general characteristics comparable to those of the principal survival of Tori Busshi’s work, the Shaka Triad at Horyuji.
The gestures of individual Buddha images carry particular meanings and often derive from hand movements made at a particular moment in the life of the Historical Buddha. The semui-in gesture of the Asukadera image’s right hand is the “fear-not” gesture traditionally said to have been made when Shaka found himself in danger of being trampled by an elephant made drunk by his evil cousin. The Buddha raised his hand and the animal became quiet. The gesture of offering, or vow-fulfilling, the seganin (skt. varadamudra), is a more general hand movement and seems to have no specific point of origin in the biography of Shaka.
This type of curl is one of the shogo (skt. lakshana) of the Historical Buddha, that is the physical symbols that distinguish him as a perfected being. The point of origin for the curls is said to be the result of Shaka shaving his head upon leaving his father’s palace and entering an ascetic life. What grew back were the tightly packed curls depicted in his imagery, and in that of other Buddhas. Two other shogo that are readily visible in the Asukadera Buddha—the byakugo (skt. lima), a small tuft of hair or raised circle just above the nose, and the nikkei (skt. ushnisha), the cranial protuberance above the normal curve of the head—are signs of the Buddha’s increased wisdom and understanding. In all there are thirty- two such signs associated with Buddhist imagery, but these three are most commonly seen.
By the time Tori would have cast this Buddha, the Wei styles had long gone out of fashion in China, replaced by a greater attention to curves and volumes, and, therefore, from a modern perspective by a greater realism. It is perhaps because Japan’s early Buddhist art works came from Paekche, which adhered more to this “antique” style, that these first Japanese images also hark back to it, instead of to the more fluid realism to be found in China in the early seventh century. Certainly, however, it is a tribute to Tori Busshi’s genius and ability that he took what could be a very stiff style and instead used it to imbue his subject with a great tranquillity that even has an element of softness.
Tori Busshi’s Yakushi of 607 was created as the principal image for Prince Shotoku’s newly established Wakakusadera. It is represented today by a seated image enshrined in the kondo of Wakakusadera’s successor, the Horyuji (Fig. 85). On the reverse of the halo is an inscription that gives many of the circumstances surrounding the production of the original image, attributing it to Tori Busshi. Superficially, the sculpture has many Wei-style characteristics in common with the Asukadera Buddha and the later Shaka Triad. However, scholars generally agree that the inscription and the halo itself postdate 607. Is the sculpture the original work of 607, with the halo and wooden pedestal being later replacements, or is the entire work a Hakuho period (645-710) copy, made after the original Wakakusadera had been destroyed? Today most historians support the latter theory, and this sculpture indeed has many features considered to be Hakuho period in style.
In the Shaka Triad of 62 3, we see the full flowering of Tori Busshi’s art. The Shaka sits serenely atop a rectangular platform (Fig. 86). His eyes seem to gaze straight forward, his hands promise the believer tranquillity and an infallible path to salvation. In contrast to the severe and immobile quality of the body, the long skirts flow down the front of the platform like a waterfall. Just above Shaka’s head is a raised circle, which represents the flaming jewel of Buddhist wisdom, enshrined on an inverted lotus blossom. Emanating from it is a lotus vine that in gently undulating curves sprouts leaves that encircle the Buddha’s head. In 622 both Shotoku and his consort died, and in 623 the statue was completed and dedicated to their spiritual wellbeing. It is not known where at Wakakusadera the triad was originally placed, since the Yakushi of 607 was already the main icon of the kondo. Various theories have been put forward. but. since it is beyond question that the statue is a work of the early seventh century, the inscription is generally accepted as valid, and the assumption is made that the piece was housed outside the main worship complex of the temple in a place untouched by the fire of 670.
The bodies of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas are barely revealed beneath their garments. Instead, attention is focused on the exuberantly articulated drapery of their skirts and the scarves that splay out on either side, creating serrated outlines that contradict the apparent volume of the figures. A clear demonstration of this is provided by a side view of one of the bodhisattvas from the Tori Triad (Fig. 88). These bronze sculptures are not complete figures in the round, but instead half images, terminated at the tips of their flaring scarves. The triad was intended to be viewed only from the front, like the relief carvings of the Chinese cave temples.
A statue not directly attributable to Tori Busshi, but clearly within the limits of his style, is the Kannon image in the octagonal Yumedono (Hall of Dreams) of Horyuji’s eastern precinct (Fig. 89). Korea, and Japan he became overtly female in character in the later medieval period, but at this earlier period his appearance is still that of a handsome youth, as are the images of most other bodhisattvas. As non-earthly denizens, the bodhisattvas are depicted in all the splendor of the heavens and Buddhist paradises, and this has been interpreted in an earthly way by showing them as Indian princelings, clad in elegant skirts, bedecked with elaborate jewelry and crowns, and having long curly tresses and mustaches.
The Yumedono sculpture has always been one of the most treasured images at Horyuji, and was hidden away for so many years in a closed wooden shrine that even the monks of the temple had lost memory of it. The shrine was opened in the late nineteenth century on the occasion of a visit by the American scholar Ernest Fenollosa, one of the Western scholars most influential in encouraging the Japanese to preserve their cultural heritage at a time of strong pressure toward Westernization. Because it was so seldom exposed to view and to the elements, the camphor-wood statue is in a remarkable state of preservation.
One can imagine that the iridescence of the beetle wings must have made striking contrast with the strong pure colors of the paintings—reds, yellows, light browns, and greens applied to a black ground. Scholars now generally agree that the shrine was made in Japan; the types of cypress and camphor wood out of which it is crafted are native to Japan, and the materials used in the paintings—lacquer mixed with red or black pigment and vegetable oil from the shiso plant added to lead oxide—are common in indigenous work.
The rectangular pedestal supporting the miniature kondo of the shrine is decorated with traditional Buddhist themes: on the front, relics are worshiped by two monks offering incense; on the back is Mount Sumeru, the mountain at the center of the universe that holds apart the heavens, the earth, and the oceans. The Bodhisattva thereupon climbs a nearby mountain and jumps from it, so that the smell of blood from his crumpled body might rouse the tigress enough to feed. In the panel, he first appears up on the mountain, taking off his robe. Then, in a system of continuous narrative, he is shown flying down to his death, and at the bottom of the cliff the tigress and her cubs begin their meal.
The circular movement of the narrative is particularly appropriate for the vertical panel on which it is painted. Even when the viewer is standing still, the sequence of the story’s episodes is clear. This method of storytelling can be found on the balustrades of Indian stupas such as Bharhut (second century b.c.e.) and on the walls of the cave temples at Dunhuang. such as the sixth-century painting of Cave 2 54 (Fig. 92). Both types of monument were designed to permit the practitioner to move in circumambulation. and, while doing so, to meditate on the illustrations decorating the walls.
Interestingly, the painting of the Tamamushi. unlike the sculptures of the Asuka period, does not hark back to Wei prototypes. The Shitenno and the bodhisattvas with their lively sense of volume and movement demonstrate a style much more in keeping with that of contemporaneous China. There was clearly an aesthetic and stylistic division between the painted and sculpted image at this point, which later in the century would be brought closer together.
Hakuho Sculpture: HoryOji
Apart from the Shaka Triad and the Yumedono Kannon, the other sculptures of Horyuji date to the Hakuho period, and almost certainly not after 711, when its rebuilding was officially completed. Jikokuten (skt. Dhrtirashtra: ch. Chiguo), king of the east, supports a jewel in his upraised right hand and a halberd in the other, while Komokuten (skt. Virupaksha: ch. Guangmu), the king of the west, holds a scroll of paper and a brush. These kings are made of single blocks of wood. The conquered demon—symbolic of the enemies of Buddhism—on which each stands and their halos are separate pieces of wood, as are the forward-ilaring scarves at the feet of each figure. Each sculpture still has traces of its original coloring and gilding.
Although there is no suggestion of the vitality of the Shitenno on the front of the Tamamushi Shrine, the scarves at the base of the rigidly erect statues do flare forward instead of to the sides, giving a stronger sense of roundness and three- dimensionality than did their Asuka predecessors. The closest continental equivalent to this set of Shitenno is found in the columnar style of the Chinese Northern Oi dynasty (550-77). The Horyuji pieces are dated to around 650 on the basis of an inscription on the back of the Komokuten halo and a separate entry in the Nihon shoki for 650, mentioning a commission of Shitenno given to a certain Oguchi Aya Yamaguchi Atai. Since the name of another craftsman, Tsugi Konmaro, is also inscribed on the halo, it is open to question what role the two men played in the creation of these images. Nevertheless, the date of 650 seems appropriate for these figures.
The Kudara Kannon (Fig. 95) preserved in the Great Treasure House of Horyuji with the Tamamushi Shrine has several points in common with the Shitenno sculptures of the kondo. It is a tall, slender wooden image, the details of its drapery shallowly indicated on the surface, the drapery scarves at its feet curving forward instead of flaring out to the side. Appropriately enough for the Bodhisattva of Compassion, it does not convey the same sense of weighty volume as the Shitenno. but instead displays a gentle roundness that suggests a more naturalistic treatment of the body.
The statue possesses a number of puzzling features, starting with its name, the Kudara Kannon. Kudara was an alternate Japanese name for Paekche, leading some art historians to speculate that the sculpture may have been made in Korea. Hhe crown and necklace are made of openwork metal, but the designs are heavier, less exuberant than those of the king images. Despite these atypical details, there is no reason to think that the statue is of foreign origin. Kudara was the name of a region to the north of the Asuka Valley as well as a synonym for Paekche.
An image that conveys some of the same grace and gentility as the Kudara Kannon is an image of Miroku as a bodhisattva preserved in the convent of Chuguji just to the east of Horyuji (Figs 96 and 97). Of a type that had long been popular in Korea, the figure is shown seated upon a throne with bent, the ankle resting on the opposite knee, on which its right arm is propped, the hand raised to the face in a pensive gesture. It eloquently and elegantly conveys the image of the Future Buddha in his paradise meditating upon the true nature of things until he will descend as the next Buddha. Chugflji was originally the residence of Prince Shotoku’s mother and was converted into a convent after her death in the early seventh century. However, the statue can clearly be recognized as a work of the Hakuho period, with its gently swelling torso, its softly modeled face, and its naturalistic pose.
It is within this relaxing of the linear geometry of the Wei style that the Horyuji Yakushi Buddha alleged to be by Tori Busshi (see Fig. 85) should also be considered. Most scholars have now concluded that it is a work of Horyuji’s rebuilding, and in replacement of the Busshi original, which was possibly lost or damaged beyond repair in the fire that destroyed Wakakusadera in 670.
This is the first-known use of lacquer in Japanese sculpture for a purpose other than protective coating. In the succeeding Nara period, whole images would be constructed out of lacquer-soaked cloth, and in the ninth century, when Japanese sculptors returned to wood as the preferred material, lacquer would be used again in just this way to build up surface details.
Originally, the group of bodhisattvas consisted of eight, not six, statues, and it has been suggested that they were produced as flanking images for a group of Buddhas of the four directions (with Birushana as an implied fifth in the center). The images stand squarely without any shift of weight, yet they have a strong three-dimensional presence. Their draped shoulders swell outward below the neck, while the torsos have a gentle inward curve. Their garments flow around and between their limbs. Their faces, too, are more naturalistically modeled, with high brows and full cheeks. The six bodhisattvas are youthful, serene figures, projecting the idea of compassion for the believer. Their form still harks back to the Northern Oi style, but there is a further relaxation of rigidity in their pose which comes that little bit closer to the elegant curves and vitality of the early Tang dynasty, as expressed in the Tamamushi Shrine paintings.
The last group of sculptures to have been installed at Horyuji during its rebuilding are clay figures in tableaux on the first floor of the pagoda and a pair of guardian Nio images in the chumon. The latter have been discussed earlier in the context of the chumon architecture (see pages 62-63), and preserve little of their original flavor having been extensively restored, but the tableaux in the pagoda are in better condition. Strictly speaking these tableaux, completed in 711, belong to the Nara period, but their installation so soon after the relocation of the capital in 710 suggests that the technique used in their manufacture—clay modeled over wood and metal armature—was coming into popularity in the last years of the Hakuho period.
The Buddha’s golden body lies on a platform, while his disciples and various bodhisattvas look on. Even his mother who predeceased him, Queen Maya, has come down from the heaven where she resides to witness the moment of her son’s joyous release (she sits on the left edge of the scene). Disciples ranged in the front, who have not fidly mastered the Buddha’s teachings, fall into violent demonstrations of grief. Those who do understand, like the bodhisattvas behind the reclining body of the Buddha, sit calmly. The other three tableaux are equally vividly modeled. The western one depicts the distribution of the Buddha’s relics after his cremation, while the one to the east depicts the famous debate by the erudite layman Yuima (skt. Vimalikirti) and the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Monju (skt. Manjushri). This was an important subject at the time the tableaux were made, not just in Japan, but also in China—Yuima, who wins the debate, being a clear demonstration that Enlightenment could be achieved by the laity, and not just within the confines of a monastic life.
Hakuho Painting
In addition to preserving the only masterpiece of Asuka- period painting, Horyuji also has the best of the few examples of painting from the Hakuho period. These fragments come originally from the interior walls of the kondd, which were decorated with a series of twelve murals. The narrower panels support images of eight bodhisattvas to flank the Buddha images. However, a disastrous fire in 1949 left most of the paintings too blackened to be readable.
There is some disagreement about the identification of the various Buddhas because, although they should appear in the four cardinal directions, the space used by the entrance doors causes a slight skewing of the whole arrangement.
Hakuho Sculpture:Yakushiji
The movement of Japanese sculpture into fully Tang styles is finally achieved by the principal images preserved at the Yakushiji’s hondo: a seated image of the Yakushi Buddha flanked by his attending bodhisattvas— Nikko (skt. Suryaprabha) to the left and Gakko (skt. Chandraprabha) to the right. Cast in bronze, these figures have acquired a rich black patina made particularly striking by the contrast with their bright gold halos, which are Edo- period replacements for the originals that had been damaged repeatedly by fires and earthquakes. A 1954 analysis of the bronze alloy revealed that it contains a particularly high proportion of tin and arsenic. No doubt the rich color of the images today is due to oxidation of the tin.
They are dressed in skirts and scarves that cling like water-soaked cloth, revealing the bodies beneath. The bodhisattvas also have rich jewelry—intricate necklaces, jewelled strands accenting the flow of the scarves, and crowns with three large jewel motifs.
He sits on a rectangular throne decorated with a variety of designs: on the uppermost horizontal band a scroll of grape leaves, a Tang motif we have also seen on the leather wrapping-cloth in Figure 5 7, and rich jewel patterns on the other narrow horizontal and vertical strips. They have been interpreted by some as the twelve yaksha generals associated with Yakushi’s heavenly retinue. The yaksha (jap. yasha) is a genus of earth divinities of ancient India, the males of which are often portrayed as squat powerful figures. In Buddhist tradition, they were converted to the Dharma and number amongst its guardians.
The date of the triad has been the subject of much debate. The controversy arises from the relationship of the Yakushiji at Fujiwara and its refoundation in Heijo. A record of 1015 states that the statue of Yakushi in the hondo was made as the result of a vow by the original temple’s founder. Emperor Tenmu, and when the capital moved to Heijo it was brought by wagon from the old Yakushiji, a trip that took seven days. While some take this at face value, others question the veracity of a document written three hundred years after the fact. In the absence of solid documentation, art historians must turn to an examination of style. Here the preponderance of evidence is on the side of the earlier date for the images. They have the same fleshiness seen in the Horyflji’s wall paintings, which date after 670 and before 711.
Early Nara Sculpture and Painting
With the eighth century and the removal of the capital to Heijo, Japanese Buddhist sculpture steps into the full realism of the mid-Tang period, and in many cases equals if not surpasses it. Aside from the medium of bronze, the materials of choice for the native Japanese sculptor are wood, lacquer, and clay. From Kofukuji survive two sets of sculptures that afford us a glimpse of this change in style in the early Nara period. These are six images from a set of the Ten Disciples of Shaka and eight sculptures of the Eight Classes of Beings, depicted at Kofukuji as guardians of the Buddha. According to reliable records, the images were completed in 734 by a group of craftsmen including a busshi, or sculptor of Buddhist images, by the name of Shogun Manpuku. a woodworker, a painter, a metals specialist, and a craftsman in paper, probably members of a guild of artisans attached to the temple.
The most interesting aspect of these sculptures is the new’ technique used to craft them; adopted from China, it is called hollow dry-lacquer, or dakkatsu kanshitsu (see page 86). Dry- lacquer sculpture is not only durable, it is also light enough to permit it to be moved more easily than bronze or solid wooden images. The craftsmen attached to Kofukuji had obviously fully mastered the dry-lacquer process, as demonstrated by the altar images of the western kondo. These works display both a great realism in form and a great sensitivity in the modeling. All six extant images from the set of ten disciples, stand on rock-shaped bases and are clad in simple monkish robes. However, in contrast to the pensive faces of the other five, the face of Kasenen (skt. Katyayana) is contorted in an open- mouthed grimace which, together with his emaciated chest, powerfully evoke his prolonged self-denial on the road to Enlightenment.
Mid-Nara Sculpture:Todaiji
From the middle of the eighth century, the great project that occupied everyone was the foundation of the Todaiji temple compound and the numerous images and accoutrements required for each of its buildings. The most important Todaiji commission of all, however, was the colossal image of Birushana, the Daibutsu. The casting for this enormous image was completed in 749, but the manufacture of the snail-shell curls and the gilding of the statue took two further years. In the spring of 752 a magnificent eye-opening ceremony was held for the Birushana. Not only did court and government officials participate, but also Buddhist dignitaries from China and India were present, including a monk from China and an Indian monk who performed the painting in of the Buddha’s eyes. Work on the halo was not completed until 771. The image enshrined in the Daibutsuden today is a reconstruction of 1192. following the destruction of the original in 1180 during the Genpei Civil War. The present image is reputed to be slightly smaller than the original, but even so is some 53 feet (16 m) tall, its size augmented by the large gold halo that sits behind it. which is decorated with innumerable seated Buddhas and bodhisattvas.