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Unformatted text preview: o Amida with and among
people everywhere. Although Ippen cannot be ranked in importance with
Hònen and Shinran in the history of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan, he
has been immortalized in one of the finest of all medieval emaki: the
Scroll of Saint Ippen, painted approximately ten years after the evangelist’s death.
This scroll is a narrative record of Ippen’s travels throughout the
country, during the course of which he purportedly gathered the astounding total of some 2.5 million converts to his sect of Amidism. The Ippen
Scroll is not only a work of art, it is also an invaluable document of thirteenth-century social history. Artistically, the scroll is perhaps most admired for its landscape background, which, although purely Japanese in
subject matter, is executed in a style that shows the strong influence of
Sung China. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as we shall see, Sung
painting served as the inspiration for a distinguished line of landscape
artists in Japan.
As a social document, the Ippen Scroll contains scenes of virtually 100 The Canons of Medieval Taste every major aspect of life and social activity in the Kamakura period, including people at work and play in the countryside and towns and gathered to meet Ippen at Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and the private
homes of the well-to-do. In one particularly lively scene from the scroll,
Ippen is shown leading a group of followers in the ecstatic practice of
the “dancing nembutsu”: that is, the singing of praise to Amida while
dancing and tapping small hand-drums. The dancers are tightly crowded
into a small frame structure, elegant carriages are clustered about on the
street outside, and highborn ladies can be seen mingling with the townspeople.
Apart from the proponents of Pure Land Buddhism, the person who
most forcefully propagated the idea of universal salvation through faith
was Nichiren (1222–82). One of the most exceptional and interesting
figures in Japanese history, Nichiren founded the only major sect of Buddhism in Japan that did not derive directly from a religious institution
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13