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Landmarks Of Esoteric Art In Japan

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Chapter Summary

The earliest esoteric art in Japan had already begun to appear in the Nara period. During the Nara period, separate denominations had not yet appeared, and any of the "six schools of Nara Buddhism could be studied at an individual temple. Kūkai is purported to have been motivated to go to China in 804 because no one in Japan could yet interpret the Sanskrit passages in the Mahāvairocana sūtra. Kūkai worked in tandem with the temples of Nara and likewise promoted Shingon Buddhism as serving the state, but by the mid-Heian period the nobility had acquired greater power and wealth than the state. The influence of the Benevolent Kings Sūtra continued into the Kamakura period and afterward through the Benevolent Kings Mandala. Esoteric images continued to be made along similar lines into the Edo period and have had a lasting effect even to today.

Keywords: Buddhism; esoteric art; Heian period; Japan; Kūkai; Kamakura period; Mahāvairocana sūtra; Nara period



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