Art of Japan and the legacy of Buddhism and culture

Art of Japan and the legacy of Buddhism and culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The impact of Buddhism on the art of Kaihō Yūshō (1533-1615) is abundantly obvious and the same applies to the role of this faith throughout his life. Of course, Yūshō isn’t alone when it comes to the enormous impact of Buddhism on his art because other Japanese artists felt the same passion and influence. However, the lay Buddhist priest who had also been a page at a famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto in his earlier life – equally flowed naturally between art and faith during the middle period of his life.

During his time at the Tōfuku-ji Buddhist temple, he obtained great knowledge from many notable Zen Buddhist priests who resided in Kyoto. Hence, Yūshō fully understood the philosophical world of Zen, high culture, the importance of Chinese art, and other important areas that enriched this period of Japanese history.

Yūshō, ironically, had been born into a family that was renowned for its military prowess. Yet, the pristine nature of Buddhism in Koyasan, Kyoto, Nara, and other famous parts of Japan, meant that Kyoto impacted greatly on Yūshō. Therefore, the Buddhist priesthood appealed naturally to Yūshō once he entered the environs of this famous city.

Despite Yūshō learning art under established Kano artists, he was blessed with an independent mind. Henceforth, Yūshō established his school of painting that was supported by notable patrons. Indeed, patrons of high esteem include Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Emperor Go-Yōzei.

Not surprisingly, the gracefulness of art by Yūshō is still highly acclaimed in modern Japan. This notably applies to the world of a high culture where he belonged throughout his life. Equally important, the power of Buddhism impacted greatly upon his artistic and cultural soul.


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