Japanese Buddhist Sculpture: The Todai-ji

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Buddhism, Japan, art history, sculpture, todai-ji, culture


Art and Design | Asian Art and Architecture | Asian History | Buddhist Studies | Japanese Studies | Sculpture


For Japan, the Nara Period (710-781 AD) was a time of great change and revolution. Buddhism as a religion was struggling to find a place within Japanese society. Politically the country was divided into three main factions, each contending to gain control and subjugation. Under the reign of Emperor Shomu, the creation of the Todai-ji and the Birushana Butsu assisted in unifying the religious and political spheres. This paper will focus on the Todai-ji, the Birushana Butsu, and other Buddhist images created during the Nara Period and will examine the relationships between religion, politics, and art in Japan.

Emperor Shomu was a devout Buddhist follower who believed in unifying the country politically with the help of Buddhism. The Todai-ji and the sculptures included in this paper are a symbolic exertion of this power to bring the country together through Buddhism. Each sculpture and the structures themselves have its origins back to China and India for physical appearance and religious background. The sculptures have both a religious purpose, in Buddhism, and a political purpose, the idealization of the Emperor and the government, which forms the basis in unifying Japan.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


Department 2 Awarding Honors Status


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