Buddhist Art and Architecture in Japan

Heather Blair

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Buddhist Art and Architecture in Japan

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When Buddhism entered Japan in the sixth century, its sculpture, painting, architecture, and texts—and the sophisticated technologies used to produce them—played a major role in attracting new adherents. These materials came to be viewed as “art” only with Japan’s participation in international exhibitions and the domestic development of museums during the 19th century. Today it is primarily art historians who study Buddhist art and architecture, but as buddhologists take an interest in social history and material culture, cross- and inter-disciplinary research is becoming more common. Disciplinary stereotypes do persist, however. They would have it that art historians are preoccupied with formalism, while buddhologists are so sunk in a textual mindset that they are unable to assess material objects critically. The Japanese-language literature on Buddhist art and architecture is voluminous, and is not covered in any significant detail here. Non-art historians should also understand that exhibition catalogs have been and continue to be a major publishing genre in both Japanese- and English-language art history. Catalogs do have their limitations, but they can be tremendously useful and anyone interested in a specific topic would do well to search out relevant exhibition materials. Happily for those who do not read Japanese, since the 1990s it has become common practice for Japanese catalogs to include English captions and even translations and synopses of essays.

Article.  9302 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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