Buddhist Wooden Sculptures in the Early Heian Period: From a Standpoint of Syncretisation of Shinto with Buddhism

Large tree in Kagoshima prefecture, Japan
Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 October, 2014
6:00pm BST

Sarai Mai (Senior Researcher, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo)

About the Talk

At this month’s lecture, Mai Sarai will introduce the little-known standing sculpture of Yakushi Nyorai, Bhaiṣajya-guru, at Jinkoin temple in the north district of Kyoto City. This sculpture is a very important part of the syncretic Shinto-Buddhist belief system. The lecture will begin with an overview of the Japanese Buddhist sculpture which is an example of early Heian period, or 9th century single-block construction sculpture. Dr Sarai will then discuss the background of the creation of the sculpture which can be considered to be a Buddhist sculpture made for the Shinto deity. At the beginning of the Heian period, the syncretic Shinto-Buddhist philosophy was spreading, incorporating the belief that the power of Buddha was required to enhance the power of Shinto deities.

About the speaker

Sarai Mai is a senior researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo. She is an Art Historian specialising in the history of Japanese sculpture. Her previous research on Japanese temples and Buddhist sculpture was presented in several journal articles for The Journal of Art Studies. She studied at Graduate School of Letters at Kyoto University and gained her PhD in Art History in 2004. She will be based at the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich for two weeks to continue with the Project Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art.

Image: Large tree in Kagoshima prefecture, Japan

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.