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Chinese Influence on Japanese Buddhist Art and Architecture - Essay Example

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China and Japan are two neighboring Asian countries that are separated by seas. To bring about changes in their way of living, specifically in the aspect of art, architecture, and religion there were instances in history where the Japanese has collaborated with the Chinese culture…
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Chinese Influence on Japanese Buddhist Art and Architecture
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Chinese Influence on Japanese Buddhist Art and Architecture China and Japan are two neighboring Asian countries that are separated by seas. To bringabout changes in their way of living, specifically in the aspect of art, architecture, and religion there were instances in history where the Japanese has collaborated with the Chinese culture. The evolution of Japanese art and architecture is attributed to the early Chinese people, who have brought the Chinese way of doing things to Japan, which the Japanese people have also adopted. This happening began during the Asuka period (552-645), where the imperial court of the country expressed its fascination to everything that was of Chinese origin (Mason 40). The period has also marked the coming of Buddhism to the country “from the Korean Kingdom of Paekche” (Mason 40). The city of Fujiwara-kyo that has been built with an imperial palace is known to have been constructed based on how the Chinese capital Chang’an was built; the palace precinct was being surrounded by earthen walls, covered by tiled roofing, with its surrounding earthworks and Buddhist temples (Mason 42-43). Another city was built similarly to Fujiwara, and this was the city of Heijo-kyo. In Heijo, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples from Fujiwara were restored to achieve an identical structure of the former Japanese capital. Summarily, from the Asuka to the Nara period, capital cities have been established and re-established but as new cities were built, the pattern that was being followed was still Chinese; Buddhist temples, sculptures and shrines still existed. The Chinese is said to have also influenced the manner of how the Japanese people wrote and gave meaning to their written pieces in the past. During the Nara period (710-94), the art of writing otherwise known as calligraphy has flourished. The Japanese has adopted the ideographic writing system of the Chinese and it became their basis to finding out the character or manners of an individual (Mason 46). Chinese Confucian classics and texts about early dynasties e.g. the Hanshu and Weizhi, Daoist philosophy geomancy and poetry were utilized by the liberal members of the court (Mason 46). Buddhist clergy and practitioners were using Buddhist texts written in Chinese characters in preaching Buddhism, when they could have opted to use Indian Sanskrit texts (Mason 46). In particular, during the seventh and eighth centuries, the Japanese developed the manyogana system of writing to incorporate the Chinese writing system, with Japanese grammar and usage of polysyllabic words. Japanese elites used the Manyogana in writing their literary works, such as the Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand leaves), as well as in writing the history of the country through their Kojiki and Nihon shoki (or Nihongi) (Mason 46). Buddhist sutras also became subject of calligraphy during the Nara period, and an example of this is the Daihoshakkyo (CH. Dabaojijing. Sutra Treasury of the Buddhist Law) (Mason 47). Upon the sixth to eighth centuries, the Chinese has reached the point of influencing Japanese preference in decorative arts. Evidence of this development is seen at the Shosoin building located in the precinct of the Todaiji temple. The building structure is likened to the architecture of constructed dwellings during the Yayoi period. Several paintings are kept in the Shosoin building, including the painting of a woman beneath a tree. The said painting has been identified as Chinese in style, but is credited to a Japanese artist (Mason 49). The biwa is another piece of decorative art that can be found at the Shosoin; it is a lute that is recognized as of Chinese origin due to the motif of its leather plectrum guard with musicians and dancers emplaced on an elephant in a mountainous setting (Mason 50). As a whole, the influence of the Chinese to Japanese decorative art has been traced through the presence of the ancient silk roads that became the gateway of Chinese art to Japan. Undoubtedly, the Chinese had a large contribution to the shaping of the Japanese Buddhist art and architecture. Most of the evidences are seen in the style, structure and material of the early Japanese imperial palaces, which were conceptualized based on the popular imperial palaces of China. In addition, early Japanese writings or literary works were composed with reference to popular Chinese writings, and the ideographic writing system of the Chinese, which is again a turning point in Japanese history. Thanks to the Chinese, the evolution and history of Japanese art and architecture became colorful and fascinating. The early Chinese has profoundly influenced the memoirs of the early Japanese people as they have brought to Japan the vibrancy and culture of China through art, architecture and religion. Work Cited Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. Print. Read More
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