Throughout the 7th and 8th centuries, however, the major focus in contacts between Japan and the Asiancontinent was the development of Buddhism. Not all scholars agree on the significant dates and theappropriate names to apply to various time periods between 552, the official date of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan, and 784, when the Japanese capital was transferred from Nara. The most commondesignations are the Suiko period, 552–645; the Hakuhō period, 645–710, and the Tenpyō period, 710–784.
The earliest Japanese sculptures of the Buddha are dated to the 6th and 7th century.
They ultimately derive from the 1st-3rd century CEGreco-Buddhist artof Gandhara,
characterized by flowing dress patterns and realistic rendering,
on which Chinese andKorean artistic traits were superimposed. After theChinese Northern Wei buddhist art
had infiltrated a Korean peninsula, Buddhist icons were brought to Japan by Koreanimmigrants.
Particularly, the semi-seated Maitreya form was adapted into a highlydeveloped Ancient Greek art style which was transmitted to Japan as evidenced by theKōryū-ji MirokuBosatsu and theChūgū-ji Siddharthastatues.
Although manyhistorians portray Korea as a mere transmitter of Buddhism,
the Three Kingdoms, and particularly Baekje, were instrumental as active agents in the introduction and formationof a Buddhist tradition in Japan in 538 or 552.
They illustrate the terminal point of theSilk Roadtransmission of Artduring the first few centuries of our era. Other examples can be found in the developmentof the iconography of the JapaneseFūjinWind God,
and the near-Classicalfloral patterns in temple decorations.
*Pagoda and Kondō at Hōryū-ji , 8th century
The earliest Buddhist structures still extant in Japan, and the oldestwooden buildings in theFar Eastare found at theHōryū-jito the
southwest of Nara. First built in the early 7th century as the privatetemple of Crown Prince Shōtoku, it consists of 41 independent buildings.
The most important ones, the main worship hall, or
(Five-storyPagoda), stand in the center of an openarea surrounded by a roofed cloister. The
, in the style of Chinese worshiphalls, is a two-story structureof post-and-beam construction, capped by an
,or hipped-gabled roof of ceramic tiles.Inside the
, on a large rectangular platform, are some of the most important sculptures of the period. Thecentral image is a Shaka Trinity (623), the historicalBuddhaflanked by two bodhisattvas, sculpture cast in
bronze by the sculptor Tori Busshi(flourished early 7th century) in homage to the recently deceased Prince
Shōtoku. At the four corners of the platform are theGuardian Kings of the Four Directions, carved in woodaround 650. Also housed atHōryū-jiis the TamamushiShrine, a wooden replica of a
, which is set on ahigh wooden base that is decorated with figural paintings executed in a medium of mineral pigments mixedwith lacquer.
Temple building in the 8th century was focused around theTōdai-jiin Nara. Constructed as the headquarters for a network of temples in each of the provinces, the Tōdaiji is the most ambitious religious complex erectedin the early centuries of Buddhist worship in Japan. Appropriately, the16.2-m (53-ft) Buddha (completed 752) enshrined in the main Buddha hall,or
, is aRushanaBuddha, the figure that represents theessence of Buddhahood, just as the Tōdaiji represented the center for Imperially sponsored Buddhism and its dissemination throughout Japan. Only a few fragments of the originalstatue survive, and the present hall and central Buddha are reconstructions from theEdo period.
JAPANESE ART, Wikipedia, p. 3