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Collapsing The Distinction Between Buddha And Believer: Human Hair In Japanese Esotericizing Embroideries

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Chapter Summary

This chapter reviews the Pure Land sources for this phenomenon and then turns to esoteric and esotericizing embroideries that incorporated human hair. A particular focus is on the monk Kakuban, credited with establishing the Shingi Shingon movement. The most ubiquitous of Japanese Pure Land images is the welcoming descent, showing Amida, often with attendants, descending to welcome devotees and accompany them back to the Pure Land. This image first appeared in the lower horizontal court of the Taima Mandala and served as inspiration for many independent paintings, and it is also seen in embroideries incorporating human hair. The human hair embroideries are certainly linked to the Japanese Pure Land tradition, but it seems evident that ideas concerning human hair also emerged from a basic substratum of Japanese culture related more to the kami-worshipping or Shintō tradition than to the Buddhist tradition.

Keywords: Buddhist tradition; esotericizing embroideries; human hair; Japanese Pure Land tradition; monk Kakuban; Taima Mandala



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