Japanese Sculptures: Bronze Buddhas, Wooden Warriors

Japanese Sculptures: Bronze Buddhas, Wooden Warriors

Update: 22 March 2016

Throughout Japanese culture, sculptures and the techniques related to sculpturing have played an important role. Learning about sculptures and reflecting on Japanese history and the thoughts of people definitely gives a unique point of view not only on traditional culture, but also on modern-day Japan.

Sculptures From the Asuka Period

In the Asuka period, when Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from China, most of the sculptural works created were Buddhist sculptures. Around that time, formal temples were also being built and Buddha statues were carved from wood.

Sculptures From the Heian Period

In the Heian period, Buddhism spread throughout rural areas, influencing the lives of ordinary people and regional characteristics. At the same time, local customs and beliefs began to reflect in Buddhist sculptures as well. The creation of sculptures of Japanese traditional gods and goddesses also began in this era. Hinoki (Japanese cypress) and kaya (torreya) were used as materials, in addition to kusunoki (camphor) which had mainly been used in the previous era.

Sculptures From the Kamakura Period

In the Kamakura period, realistic and powerful sculptures became popular due to the rise of samurai warriors. The wooden sculpture thought to be the world's largest was Todaiji-nandaimon-nio-zo (also known as Kongo-rikishi-zo, a figure of a Buddhism guardian deity that is placed at the main southern gate of Todai-ji) was also built in this era. Its muscular, energetic figure is incredibly impressive.

Sculptures From the Edo Period

The famous Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, was rebuilt in luxurious fashion by the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, who also added more than 5,000 sculptures. It was painted in various vivid colors and around 508 sculptures depict scenes from historical events and legends, as well as mythical creatures such as dragons and sages.

Sculptures From the Meiji Period

In the Meiji period, Japanese sculpture artists started to learn Western-style engraving techniques. It was at this time that Japanese modern sculptural arts entered into a new era. Since then, the art scene continues to change dynamically, and now even pencil tips and bananas are used as raw materials for sculpting. As Japanese sculpture artists evolve, they continue to remain loyal to traditional techniques while improving their artistry.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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