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Flowing Traces

Flowing Traces: Buddhism in the Literary and Visua Arts of Japan

James H. Sanford
William R. LaFleur
Masatoshi Nagatomi
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    Flowing Traces
    Book Description:

    According to the contributors to this volume, the relationship of Buddhism and the arts in Japan is less the rendering of Buddhist philosophical ideas through artistic imagery than it is the development of concepts and expressions in a virtually inseparable unity. By challenging those who consider religion to be the primary phenomenon and art the secondary arena for the apprehension of religious meanings, these essays reveal the collapse of other dichotomies as well. Touching on works produced at every social level, they explore a fascinating set of connections within Japanese culture and move to re-envision such usual distinctions as religion and art, sacred and secular, Buddhism and Shinto, theory and substance, elite and popular, and even audience and artist. The essays range from visual and literary hagiographies to No drama, to Sermon-Ballads, to a painting of the Nirvana of Vegetables. The contributors to the volume are James H. Foard, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, Frank Hoff, Laura S. Kaufman, William R. LaFleur, Susan Matisoff, Barbara Ruch, Yoshiaki Shimizu, and Royall Tyler.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6294-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)
    James H. Sanford, William R. LaFleur and Masatoshi Nagatomi

    According to tradition, Buddhism was first introduced to the Japanese on the level of royal exchange when the monarch of the Korean realm of Paekche presentedsūtras, banners, umbrellas, and an image of the Buddha Śākyamuni to the Japanese emperor in 538, or perhaps 552 C.E. Modern scholarship suggests, however, that the actual entry of Buddhism into Japan had both an earlier and a less formal beginning. It seems likely that at least a century before the official date, resident Korean artisans, themselves practicing Buddhists, were already fashioning art works in Japan—objects that fascinated the Japanese and made them...

  2. One Symbol and Yūgen: Shunzei’s Use of Tendai Buddhism
    (pp. 16-46)

    There is general agreement among both Japanese and Western literary historians that much of the verse of twelfth-century Japan is strikingly different from that written earlier, and that this change is best described as the presence of a new depth (fukasa) in the new poetry. According to Robert H. Brower and Earl Miner,

    to some degree the depth derives from a complexity of technique, but the subjectivity lent poetry by the preceding period is absorbed by the new techniques, and charges them with a kind of resonance often belied by what on the surface is an easy intelligibility. When a...

  3. Two Nature, Courtly Imagery, and Sacred Meaning in the Ippen Hijiri-e
    (pp. 47-75)

    During the latter part of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the art of narrative handscroll painting reached a high point in richness and elaboration. One work of great pictorial and thematic complexity that was produced in this era is theIppen Hijiri-e, a biography of Ippen (1239–1289), a Japanese teacher of Pure Land Buddhism. An unusual feature of its paintings is the care that was lavished upon the settings, both architectural and landscape. The varied, panoramic settings, along with the many incidental figures they contain, impart considerable charm and vitality to this pictorial biography.¹

    TheIppen Hijiri-ewas executed...

  4. Three Prefiguration and Narrative in Medieval Hagiography: The Ippen Hijiri-e
    (pp. 76-92)

    In his collection of short biographies of Japanese writers, Donald Keene wonders why Japan has not produced much biographical writing.¹ This question parallels that which is often raised about Japanese fiction, namely, why Japan has produced so few “real” novels; and indeed, Keene suggests that the dearth of Japanese biography derives from an indifference in Japan to individual character—the very reason generally given for the supposed lack of novels. Anyone acquainted with the issue of the distinction betweenshōsetsuand “novel” is all too familiar with how quickly such questions can become unproductive terminological quibbles or, worse, arrogant impositions...

  5. Four Coping with Death: Paradigms of Heaven and Hell and the Six Realms in Early Literature and Painting
    (pp. 93-130)

    The phenomenon of death is an invaluable focal point for comparative humanistic scholarship. As one of the great invariables of human experience, it provides an excellent point of departure for a cross-cultural exploration of culturally determined variations in human perceptions of and responses to what is in fact a traumatic, universal event in human life. Buddhism, a foreign import into Japan that ultimately became the major institution there concerned with mortal questions, likewise provides an excellent framework for the examination of cross-cultural paradigm modification.¹

    This chapter is a brief exposition of some of the varied and complex modes of cultural...

  6. Five Seeing and Being Seen: The Mirror of Performance
    (pp. 131-148)

    The words with which the British actor William Charles Macready (1793–1873) spoke of his own performance as Hamlet came naturally, for he spoke with considerable experience of the audience’s part in making what he elsewhere calls “possession” possible: “the inspiration is lost, the perfectabandon, under which one goes out of one’s self, is impossible unless you enjoy the perfect sympathy of an audience.”¹ Macready, so ceaselessly troubled by the failure of the very sympathy he talks about, in time left his profession. A lifelong agony is recorded in his journals and a diary which, as published, fill two...

  7. Six “The Path of My Mountain”: Buddhism in Nō
    (pp. 149-179)

    It is common knowledge that both Shinto and Buddhist elements may be found in Nō. Some plays present Japanese deities and some evoke thoughts of shamanistic ritual, while a great many are permeated with obviously Buddhist language. This chapter analyzes the themes of the plays in terms of certain key ideas about the world, in order to describe the Buddhism that is characteristic of Nō.

    In the past the Buddhism of Nō has been defined in two ways: as Amidism and as Zen. Arthur Waley distinguished the Buddhism of educated people and artists from that of the common people when...

  8. Seven Chūjōhime: The Weaving of Her Legend
    (pp. 180-200)

    This is the story of a legend—of how a specific legend developed and changed according to the responses and needs of its audiences. The heroine is an eighth-century Japanese nobleman’s daughter named Chūjōhime who, it was believed, inspired the Buddha Amida to descend to earth and oversee the weaving of a tapestry depicting the Western Pure Land. After briefly discussing the eighth-century tapestry, I will examine selected thirteenth- and fourteenth-century pictorial and literary works that develop the basic legend of Chūjōhime, then proceed to examine a dramatic twist in the legend, elaborated by the Nō playwright Zeami (1363—1443),...

  9. Eight Multiple Commemorations: The Vegetable Nehan of Itō Jakuchū
    (pp. 201-233)

    An unusual painting by Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800) entitledYasai Nehan(Vegetable Nirvāṇa) is in the collection of the Kyoto National Museum (fig. 27). This scroll formerly was among the treasures of the Seiganji temple in Kyoto, a branch temple belonging to the Nishi Honganji school of the Jōdo Shin sect. Measuring 181.7 centimeters in height and 96.1 centimeters in width, theYasai Nehanis a very large work, especially in comparison with other works by Jakuchū executed in ink on paper.

    This painting depicts an assemblage of vegetables in an open field, at the center of which a large...

  10. Nine Holy Horrors: The Sermon-Ballads of Medieval and Early Modern Japan
    (pp. 234-262)

    Among the most thriving popular entertainments that flourished in the major urban centers of Japan from around the turn of the seventeenth century was a form of puppet theater known as Sekkyō-bushi, or “sermon-ballads.”¹ Preserved in print by enterprising booksellers riding the crest of a great new wave of mass literacy, the sermon-ballads afford us a fascinating glimpse at popular religious beliefs reflected in a form of mass entertainment. The termsekkyō, literally “sūtra-explanation,”² has a long history, but the sermon-ballads of early modern times make scarcely any reference to thesūtrasand are, to say the least, far removed...