History of Japanese Buddhist Art

22 November, 2013

Buddhist art forms were born and flourished in the Indian sub-continent where the Buddhism itself originated. In accordance with the growth of Buddhism, it became known all around the Asian countries including Japan as a result of its interactions with other cultures.

Within a short period of time, Buddhism attained a wide acceptance in the South-East Asia. Buddhist art forms also reached out to the masses in line with the massive popularity of the religion.

Before the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, several other cultures and movements had made impacts on the Japanese art. Especially the Kofun and Yoyoi times had a great impact on the culture and art style of Japan.

In the 6th century, Buddhism took up its residence in Japan. As it was vanishing from India, Japan was becoming its capital. The Buddhist priests succeeded in attracting the ordinary people with their art works and statues. Eventually, Japan became the largest country of Buddhism in the world.

Soon after the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, it began to make impacts on the Japanese life and art. Numerous monasteries and temples were built up. The Kofukun-ji temple in Nara, the five story pagoda and the Golden Hall of Horyuku are the existing examples of the Buddhist art forms of those times.

Buddhist art forms were exhibited in different sculptures and paintings and the government also sponsored a number of artists in order to support the Buddhist art. The art of that time was attractive and was based on realism because of the Korean, Chinese and Hellenistic impacts.

The period ranging from the 8th century through to the 13th century witnessed Buddhist art flourish to a great extent. The Nara period as well as the Heian and Kamakura period is known for their Buddhist art. The Japanese artists developed rich figurative art that was used in order to portray their deities. Hindu and Shinto influence were also obvious in such works. In general Buddhist art appeared to be extremely varied but at the same time very creative and bold.

After the 13th century, the traditional Buddhist art took the form of Zen art. This philosophy was brought to Japan by Dogen and Eisai. Apart from painting and pottery, the art of flower arrangement named Ikebana and the martial arts found their way to growth in this time. These art works reveal their eagerness to unveil the real meaning of life.

An overwhelming amount of Buddhist temples, reaching up to 80,000, can be found in Japan today. Most of these temples had been repaired a lot in order to conserve them.

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