[Sample Translation]

 

Kyoto and Japanese Buddhism

 

Tokushi Yusho  

 

 (5) Historic Sites in Kyoto and Buddhist Arts

 

[c]

From the ancient times, conflagrations burned out the downtown of Kyoto.  There are no store buildings that are more than 200 or 300 years old, even if they have survived the fires.  Most of the historic buildings are shrines and temples.  Excellent buildings are designated for a national treasure.  Some buildings keep ancient structures and appearances even if they were reconstructed in recent times.  As for the gardens accompanying the buildings, in Kyoto and its suburbs, there survive the representative works of the different historical periods, showing the main stream of the age so that people can study the real history of Japanese garden.  The temple Sanjusangen-do in the Higashiyama ward in Kyoto is famous for its one thousand life-size statues of Kannon, but it is also significant as a site reminding of the retired Emperor Go-shirakawa.  As a historic site of the Muromachi period, if you visit the Golden Pavilion (founded by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu) or the Silver Pavilion (founded by Ashikaga Yoshimasa), you can see the shadow of glory of the time.  Such works shows us the correct images of history and arts, as a legacy of the ancestors.

 

In Kyoto, a comparably large number of Zen temples survive the long history.  In the Kamakura period, Zen Buddhism was introduced to Japan and as its first center the temple Kennin-ji was founded.  From that time, lots of Zen temples were built, including Tofuku-ji, Nanzen-ji, Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Daitoku-ji and Myoshin-ji.  There was a network of state-sponsored Zen temples, called gGozanh (five mountain system) in Kyoto, and in Kamakura, too.  In Kyoto, large temples were built one after another.  If not chosen for the five mountains, such temples wished to be included in the system.  There were arguments on the ranks of the temples in the system.  These conditions made the system so complicated, but it suggests that people recognized the importance of Zen temples in Kyoto.  We should also note that the Zen monks introduced the literature of Song and Yuan Dynasties, Neo-Confucianism of Cheng Zhu school and the black and white aquarelles.  In Zen temples, from architectural style to altar fittings, everything was so new and unusual.  In the previous period, people had never seen such things.  One of the first introduced in this period was gShoin-zukuri,h which is an architectural style for houses to treat guests.  It was the age of continual wars and the only comfort for people was the tea ceremony, which was invented in Zen temples, too.  Ikebana, Yokyoku or Noh theater are also related with Zen Buddhism in some ways.  As interior decorations, the painting on partitions made a remarkable progress.  Even today, you can see a considerable number of masterpieces of the painting with gold or the aquarelle of black and white for partitions in the Shoin room of Zen temples.  Since sufficient light comes into the Shoin room, the black and white aquarelle on the partitions or the plastered walls looks clearer and more graceful.  One side of the Shoin room faces the garden so that the visitor may feel refreshing atmosphere.  In a lapse of time, this style of Zen architecture was applied for houses of secular persons.  Today, every traditional house has a parlor called Zashiki with an alcove, which are originated from the Shoin room in Zen temples.

 

 

Zen temples in Kyoto keep treasures like portraits of priests, calligraphic artworks, masterpiece paintings imported from Song or Yuan Dynasties China as well as partition paintings, excellent structure of the building and the garden.  Such temples as Tofuku-ji and Daitoku-ji are especially famous for this.  In the Muromachi period, a number of Zen monks were known to people for their poetic, Confucian, historical or medical literature in addition to Buddhist studies.  Ancient books of such disciplines are kept in Zen temples, too.  Printing arts, which remarkably developed from the mid Heian period, accepted the Chinese style, brought with Zen culture, to produce prints called Gozan prints.  Such prints included poetic, Confucian and historical literatures as well as Zen books.  Licensed trade with Ming Dynasty China brought such books to this country, but it was so insufficient for the demand that they were reprinted in Japan if demanded.  Printing workers from Fuzhou in China participated the business to produce as good prints as Chinese.  In particular, the prints called the Rinsen-ji version was excellent.  They were manufactured under the supervision of the monk Shunnoku Myoha, who was a disciple of the monk Muso Soseki.  Most of such prints were lost, but you can see some survivors today.

 

Apart from Zen temples, in Kyoto, a considerable number of temples are of the Jodo Shu and Nichiren Shu schools.  They also have a lot of treasures.  In Kyoto, regardless of their schools (Tenadai, Shingon or Ji shu), old temples have precious wares and treasures, some of which are designated for a national treasure or an important artwork by the government.  Among them, however, temples of the Jodo Shinshu, a comparatively new school, may not have so many historical works, but still such temples as Nishi Hongan-ji, Higashi Hongan-ji, Bukko-ji or the former Honsei-ji have master works including imperial handwritings.  The structure of Nishi Hongan-ji contains a part of the Fushimi Castle and the Jurakudai palace, as a survivor of the Momoyama architecture, constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  They are designated for a national treasure.

 

In Kyoto, most of the surviving artworks are medieval or early-modern ones.  In this way, the city has incomparable cultural heritage.  However, Kyoto is the second to Nara in the heritage of the upper antiquity before the 8th century.

 

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