ASIA212Varley

2 the introduction of buddhism the sixth century

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Unformatted text preview: of the mid-Yayoi period and to certain house haniwa of the age of burial mounds. The style is sometimes called “granary” (kura) construction, because its characteristic structure, as seen in the buildings of Ise, was probably first used to store rice. Later, it is believed, the same kind of structure was adapted to both palace and shrine use. 2 The Introduction of Buddhism The sixth century inaugurated an epoch of great vitality in East Asia. After some three and a half centuries of disunion following the fall of the Han dynasty in 220, China was at length reunited under the Sui dynasty in 589. Although the T’ang replaced the Sui in 618, there was no further disruption of national unity for another three centuries. The period of disunion in China produced conditions favorable to the spread of Buddhism, which had been introduced from India during the first century a.d., and it was largely as a Buddhist country that China entered its grand age of the T’ang dynasty (618–907). Buddhism had not only secured great numbers of religious converts in China; it had come to be regarded as virtually essential to the institutional centralization of the country, and its themes dominated the world of the visual arts. Under the T’ang, China enjoyed its greatest national flourishing in history. Its borders were extended to their farthest limits, and Chinese culture radiated outward to neighboring lands. In East Asia, both Korea and Japan were profoundly influenced by T’ang China and underwent broad centralizing reforms on the Chinese model. At mid-sixth century, Japan was divided into a number of territories controlled by aristocratic clans called uji. One clan—the imperial uji—had its seat in the central provinces and enjoyed a status approximating that of primus inter pares over most of the others, whose lands extended from Kyushu in the west to the eastern provinces of the Kantò. In northern Honshu, conditions were still unruly and barbarous. Even at this time in Japanese history, there was a pronounced tendency for the heads of the non-imperial uji to assume, as ministers at court, much if not all of the emperor’s political powers. Although there were a number of forceful sovereigns during the next few centuries, Japan’s emperors have in general been noteworthy for the fact that they have rei...
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