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Literature / Arts

Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art: 1600-2005

(University of Hawaii Press 2008)

Patricia Graham

The notion that Buddhism declined as a driving force in everyday social and cultural life from the Tokugawa period onward informs most people’s idea of Buddhist art, where emphasis is usually placed on the ancient or early-modern. This book corrects that perception by examining a much-overlooked period in Japanese Buddhist art. Moving from the beginning of the Tokugawa era to the early years of the 21st century, author Patricia J. Graham reassesses the canon to incorporate recent imagery and architecture, defines the social history of such recent works, and, finally, clarifies the ways in which Buddhism continues to serve as an important source of inspiration for contemporary Japanese artists.
This important study shows how people involved in making and commissioning Buddhist works of art have continued to shape changes in religious practice, leaving a canon that is as inspiring and worthy of contemplation as the more celebrated early-modern worshippers. From pagodas, fountains, and bronze-cast statues to photographs of homeless men, the art of Buddhism has never ceased to inform its cultural and religious significance in modern Japan. Graham shows the continued importance of followers to whom the visual and artistic representation of art and architecture remains central.

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