Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Art of Buddhism

In the late twelfth century, the aristocrats' political control declined dramatically as a rising warrior class consolidated its grip on the country. Two major Buddhist movements gained prominence: one was an indigenous populist Buddhism, and the other was Zen, imported from China (and known there as Chan). Both belief systems had been present in Japan in nascent forms for several centuries, but the tumultuous social conditions brought on by the major shift in national ruling elites created a particularly receptive audience for fresh and seemingly simpler expressions of Buddhism. Populist Buddhist sects, almost as a corrective to the arcane doctrines espoused by the aristocracy, offered the recitation of simple prayers as a way of attaining salvation. Devotional imagery also stressed the compassionate and approachable aspects of Buddhist deities. From the thirteenth century Buddhist imagery was enhanced by the Japanese penchant for visual narratives that recorded the historical foundation of temples and religious sects and the lives of saints and generally stressed the miraculous interventions of the divine in everyday life.
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Exhibitions / Buddhism / Japan / 1 2 3 4
Daishi Zaito - The Life of the Priest Kobo
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
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