Buddhism and the Japanese calligrapher Sugawara Mitsushige: Bodhisattva Kannon
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The inscription of the Japanese calligrapher Sugawara Mitsushige dates the scroll to 1257. Thus the start of the brief Shoka era. Also, in this period of Japanese history, the famous Buddhist monk Nichiren (1222-1282) spread new ideas and reinvigorated Buddhism in Japan.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art says “According to the calligrapher Sugawara-no-Mitsushige’s inscription, this scroll was made in the first year of the Shoka era (1257) and was modeled after a Chinese Song-dynasty printed book dated 1208. Although the compositions and the figural and architectural motifs of this version reflect Chinese pictorial traditions, it is clear that the anonymous artist inventively incorporated native Japanese (yamato-e) elements, especially in the manner of representing the landscapes and the fantastic beasts and demons.”
Its power never ceases to amaze all viewers who cherish art, culture, history, and religion. Hence, the images of the “Universal Gate” remain visually powerful.
Thirty-four amazing images of Chapter 25 of the “Universal Gate” combine with the holy texts of the sutra. Indeed, the images highlight the mercy shown by Bodhisattva Kannon and the compassion that awaits.
Bodhisattva Jizo and Bodhisattva Kannon are extremely popular deities in Japan. Therefore, these two deities dot the landscape.
The Middle Kingdom (China) played a powerful role in the cultural growth of Japan. Internally, the indigenous Shinto faith would fuse many new ideas that entered the country. Also, new internal Buddhist sects would emerge that were extremely diverse – from Shingon Buddhism (Vajrayana lineage) to Nichiren.
Therefore, the diversity of Japanese Buddhism can be felt strongly in Chichibu, Kamakura, Kyoto, Koyasan, Nara, Negoro-ji, Nikko, and other important centers of this religion.
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