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Unformatted text preview: it was successfully cast (fig. 17). At the daibutsu’s “eye-opening” ceremony
in 752, when a cleric from India painted in the pupils of its eyes to give
it symbolic life, there were some ten thousand Buddhist priests in attendance and many visitors from distant lands. It was by all accounts one of
the grandest occasions in early Japanese history.
Shortly before the eye-opening ceremony, Shòmu, who in 749 had
abdicated the throne in favor of his daughter, appeared before the daibutsu and humbly declared himself a servant to the three Buddhist trea- Fig. 16 Tòdaiji Temple (Consulate General of Japan, New York) Fig. 17 Daibutsu at the Tòdaiji Temple (Consulate General
of Japan, New York) 40 The Introduction of Buddhism Fig. 18 Guardian deity in dry lacquer at the Tòdaiji
Temple (Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co.) sures (the buddha, the law, and the priesthood). This act was the high
point in the Nara court’s public infatuation with Buddhism. Although
many later sovereigns were personally devout Buddhists, none after
Shòmu ever made this sort of official gesture of submission to Buddhism
or to any religion other than Shinto.
Among the many excellent examples of Tempyò art at the Tòdaiji are
statues in two new mediums, clay and dry lacquer. In the unusual technique of dry lacquer sculpture, the artist began with either a clay base or
a wooden frame and built up a shell consisting of alternate layers of fabric
—mainly hemp—and lacquer. The very nature of the material made a
certain stiffness in the trunks and limbs of the finished figures inevitable.
Nevertheless, as can clearly be seen in one of the fierce guardian deities
at the Tòdaiji, the sculptors in dry lacquer were able to achieve much of
the realistic detailing that was so characteristic of the T’ang-inspired art
of the Tempyò period (fig. 18).
The most famous work in dry lacquer is the image at the Tòshòdaiji
in Nara of the blind Chinese priest Ganjin (688–763), who after several
unsuccessful attempts made the perilous cross...
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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 UBC.
- Spring '13