Buddhist Iconography in the Butsuzozui of Hidenobu

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Item Code: NAC486
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Anita Khanna
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788124605424
Pages: 248 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 Inch X 8.8 Inch
Weight 1.10 kg
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The volume presents the Buddhist iconography of Japan as depicted in the Butsuzozui, a collection of iconographic sketches of various Buddhas that falls under the genre of Zuzo collections of iconic drawings in black and white. Inspired by the Chinese style of paintings called Pathuo or Hakubyo, the over 800 sketches presented here bear reference to the landmark work of this genre compiled in CE 1175 under the title of Besson Zakki and are arranged on the basis of the treatise of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Butsuzozui presents Buddhism as it has been adapted in Japan, with the collections of Buddhist icons divided into five parts. It contains the list of sources, especially the scriptures. It deals with the Chinese icons of Fudaishi and his sons — the laughing Buddhas; sketches on the birth of the historical Buddha, his search, sambodhi and parinirvana; the nine categories of Amida and the classification of the Seven Buddhas of healing (Shichi Yakubutsu). It introduces the amalgamation of Buddhist and the native Shinto deities, a unique feature of Japanese Buddhism. The sections that follow expand the list of the protector gods associated with the Japanese beliefs and the different historical personalities associated with the various sects of Buddhism in Japan.

The volume will interest scholars of Buddhist religion and art.

Dr (Mrs) Anita Khanna, is Professor of Japanese at Jawaharlal Nehru University specializing in classical Japanese literature. She has worked extensively on the presence of Indian themes in Japanese literature with special focus on Buddhist discourse narratives called Setsuwa. She has been engaged in the comparative study of Indian and Japanese discourse narratives based on the landmark collection of Konjaku Monogatarish (12 century) and has authored Jataka Stories in Japan (1999). She has also authored works like “Ancient Japanese Literature, A critical Survey 2002”, and Japani Sahitya (An Overview of Japanese Literature from Ancient to Modem) 2003. She has been editor of some of the Journals devoted to teaching Japanese language and literature and has authored several research articles.

She has been Japan Foundation Research Fellow at Osaka University International Institute of Japanese Culture Kyoto, and Fellow Researcher at National Institute of Japanese Literature, Tokyo. She is the Chairperson of Centre for Japanese; Korean and North-East Asian Studies at School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University her alma mater, where she teaches Japanese language and literature.



Butsuzo-zui is a collection of iconographic sketches of various Buddhas that falls under the genre of Zuzo Collections of the iconicdrawings in black and white. It was inspired by the Chinese style of paintings called Paihuo or Hakubyo in monochrome that flourished in order to emphasize the purity and power of brush. This style has been primarily associated with the drawings and sketches of the Buddhist icons in Japan with a few exceptions like Makurano soshi Emaki, the scroll painting in monochrome of the famous literary work Pillow Book (CE 1000).

The landmark work of this genre was compiled in 1175 under the title of Besson Zakki, i.e. The Miscellaneous Records of Classified Deities, in fifty volumes. It was the work of a Gazo, i.e. a painter-priest by the name of Shinkaku (1117-80), and the sketches were arranged on the basis of the treatise of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. With the development of wood block prints, the Zuzo collections were reproduced in large volumes to cover the entire gamut of Buddhist icons rather than a particular sect and finally these culminated in the work Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo (1924) in 100 volumes.

The present collection of Butsuzo-zui is a prototype of this genre of collections which was first compiled in early Edo period in 1690 in 3 sections. The present collection is the enlarged edition in five sections of the original work compiled in 1783 by a minor official Tosa Hidenobu. The collection unfolds like an encyclopedia of Japanese Buddhism especially from the standpoint of populous Buddhism and the unique amalgamation of the Buddhist and Shinto gods. The later addition of section 4 includes the groupings of the protector deities of Buddhism and the section 5 gives the names of the various patriarchs of the Japanese sects and it also covers the list of implements used by the monks. Such a comprehensive and well-classified collection of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Devas, Mahabalas, incarnations (Gongen), various patriarchs, etc. was compiled, as remarked by the compiler in his foreword because “the very appearance of these icons is extremely befitting to inspire veneration and faith among people.”

It has also inspired the interests of western and European circles, as pointed out by Lucia Dolce in her paper on Japanese Buddhism. As mentioned by her also it would have inspired Emile Guimet’s decision to establish Musee Guimet, one of the foremost museums devoted to Buddhism in Europe.

Butsuzo zui represents the complex weft and woof of Buddhism as it has been adapted in Japan. Buddhism reached Japan through Korea and China and evolved over the centuries to gain its distinct forms.

In this collection of Buddhist icons in five parts, in section one the list of sources especially the Sutras is covered. The section two begins with the Chinese icons of Fudaishi and his sons who are popularly known as the laughing buddhas. It is followed by a brief reference to the historical Buddha, with the sketches of his birth, search, sambodhi and parinirvana. Subsequently the groupings in Japan starting with the nine categories of Amida are given which has been widely adapted in Japanese culture and aesthetics as the yardstick of its quality. Then the classification of the Seven Buddhas of healing (Shichi Yakubutsu) is given followed by an exhaustive list of the bodhisattvas, avalokitesvaras, ksitigarbhas, incarnations, esoteric deities, etc.

In Japan the number of bodhisattvas has outnumbered that of buddhas as the protectors of Buddhism, and the founders of various sects are incorporated in the Buddhist pantheons as bodhisattvas. The five mahabalas are fierce-looking generals and have been closely associated with the role of Buddhism as the protectors of nation (Chingo). A symbol of compassion in Japan is Jizo, a popular folk deity originally Ksitigarbha, and represents the six realms of Naraka, hungry spirits, beasts, raksasa, human beings and (Svarga) heaven.

Thus having arranged the grouping of the most popular Buddhist deities in Japan, the next section three introduces the amalgamation of Buddhist and the native Shinto deities, a unique feature of Japanese Buddhism. It is represented by the Sanjunichi Hibutsu, the secret buddhas of each day, of a month which is said to have come from China whereas the corresponding Sanjubanjin are the Shinto gods. Here in this translation the buddhas and gods for each day are listed serially in two parallel rows of above and below. So two separate series of numbers are assigned to each row, with the secret buddhas on top and the Shinto deities below.

This amalgamation of the two is carried further in the classification titled as Shinbutsu Gongen, the fusion of Buddhism with Shinto gods. It includes a long list of the Shinto gods regarded to be of Buddhist origin like the gods of the seven shrines of Sanno, Mt. Koya, the incarnations of Kumano, the Red kumara of Kasuga followed by the cosmic paraphernalia of stars, constellations, Zodiac and the lesser gods like Dalkini, Hariti, yaksas, devas, rudras and concludes with the ten kings of Naraka.

Subsequently in sections four and five, appended later with the aim of expanding the scope of the collection, the protector gods associated with the Japanese beliefs and culture as well as are added. The deified historical personalities associated with the various sects of Buddhism in Japan. So section four begins with 12 protectors of Yakushi (Bhaisajyaguru), the 16 protectors of Lotus Sutra, the seven Japanese gods of luck, 28 gat7as, 16 rakan (arhats) and concludes with the illustration of Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi: 574-622), the foremost and fervent promoter of Buddhism in Japan. Here in the collection he is illustrated as the young boy of six and adult of 49, to denote that he devoted his whole life to promote Buddhism there. The seven gods of luck truly represent the amalgamation of Buddhism with the native gods without any conflict.

Next, section five, deals with the shapers of Buddhism in Japan starting with icons of the Indian, Chinese and Japanese patriarchs of the various sects. In the latter part of this section the list of various implements used in the rituals and the robes and other accessories worn by the monks are included. This section five begins with the ancient-most Japanese sect of Hosso based on the Consciousness only doctrine (Yuishikiron) with the illustrations of its Indian and Chinese masters. This is followed by Sanron-shu, the three treatises doctrine based on the teachings of Nagarjuna, his disciple Aryadeva and tranmitted by Kumarajiva. Based on the Madhyamika and Satsastrya (Hyakuron), it holds that only by overcoming the fallacy caused by the outward appearances the truth is perceived in the state of ku or Unya which is the only static factor (nitya) as others are always in a state of flux. It was propagated by Doji. Next the Indian and Chinese patriarchs of Kua shu, the Kua sect based on the Indian work of the same name Abhidharma Kosa are listed. It was transmitted by Monk Dosha who also transmitted Hosso teachings in Japan and it upholds the existence of dharma as essential and substantial. Subsequently the Jojitsu-shu, also based on the concept of ku or sunya, especially the one conceived by Harivarman is given. Then the Ritsu sect, based on the teachings of Mahayana Vinayas, the precepts for ordination that was propagated in Japan by a Chinese monk Kanshin in 754. Next the clerics of Kegonshu founded on Avatamsaka Sutra based on Shinnyo (tathata), the essence are listed. It was introduced by Chinese monk Dosen in 735. It holds that all things are interlinked being connected by the omnipresent Buddha nature.

These six sects together formed the Nanbu-rokushu, the six Buddhist sects of Nara (710-84). Subsequently in the Heian period, the religious sects of Tendai shu and Shingon shu flourished. The various patriarchs of Tendai are illustrated followed by the one of Shingon shu based on the true-word (mantra) the sect was established by monk Kukai on Mt. Koya.

In Kamakura period (1192-1333) marked by constant warfare and chaos, the religious sect associated with warriors, i.e. Zen shu is listed first followed by the popular sects like the Fuse Land sect. Zen is based on the Indian dhyana tradition and introduced in China by Bodhi Dharma. It was the monk Eisai who studied and practised it in China and propagated it in Japan in 1192. The other sects of Kamakura period like Jodoshu, the pure land sect with a list of its Philosophers in India like Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Bodhiruci, Chinese patriarchs like Tanluan and the great teachers in Japan like Kukai, Honnen, Shinran, etc. are included. In the second half of this section five a long list of implements and accessories associated with the veneration of Buddhism in Japan particularly the objects placed in a temple, robes used by the priests, etc.

Buddhism in Japan

In Japan Buddhism was introduced as the new wave of religious thoughts and philosophies that gave birth to a new set of rituals and concepts, novel forms of art, architecture, implements, etc. that deeply enriched the weft and woof of Japanese culture. Initially the information about Buddhism was brought to Japan by the Korean migrants settled there, long before it was officially introduced. According to the Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki (720)) officially Buddhism came to Japan in the year CE 552 with some official gifts from the Korean Kingdom of Kudara (Pekche) that included a tall image of Shaka Butsu (Sakyamuni) in copper and gold, several pitakas (flag and umbrellas) and some sutras. In the same work under the entries made in the year 545, it is noted that the king of Kudara got an image of Jorokubutsu (Standing Buddha, 16 ft tall) made along with a commemoration that praised the virtues of constructing the images of Buddha. Then in CE 552 King Seimei (Seio) despatched some officials with these presents to Japan. The citation praised the merits of Buddhism, “this doctrine excels all other doctrines. It is like a Cintamani jewel that fulfils all the wishes to one’s hearts content.” The idea of sending such a gift could be explained as “to transmit it to the Imperial country and to diffuse it abroad throughout the home provinces, so as to fulfil the recorded words of Buddha, “My law shall spread to the East.”

Buddhism in Japan appealed to the ruling class and aristocracy and its development was initially facilitated by the arrival of Korean monks, nuns, and skilled artisans in Japan.

Nihon Shoki also notes how the emperor was elated with joy on hearing the dharma and consulted his ministers. One of them named Sogano-Oomi Inameno Sukune responded, “In all the Western countries, Buddha is worshipped then why our country only should refrain from doing so?” On the other hand some ministers opposed it stating, “Our emperors have worshipped the myriad gods in each seasons. Now by worshipping the gods from another land we shall be inviting the wrath of our native gods.”

Due to such opposition the emperor handed over the statue to the minister Sogano-Oomi Inameno Sukune who installed it in his house in Oharida and converted the house into a temple. Soon after an epidemic ravaged the country and many people died. The minister Mononobe and other opponents attributed it to the wrath of the native gods and so the emperor ordered to discontinue its veneration. As a result the idol was thrown in a canal in Naniwa (Osaka) and the temple was completely destroyed.

In due course of time the antagonism calmed down and Buddhism spread in Japan with little resistance. The emperor Yomei had faith in Buddhist law although he revered Shinto. It was during the reign of the empress Suiko (593-628) that Buddhism flourished in Japan with the efforts of Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi) and the arrival of learned monks from Korea starting with the monk Eji from Kokkuri and Eso from Kudara. Empress Suiko asked him to preach the Shomangyo and then Hokkekyo and later Yuima gyo, the three texts on which he scribed commentaries as well. During her time the number of temples was 46, with 816 monks and 569 nuns.

From CE 607, the dispatch of official Japanese Embassies to China (Kenzui-shi) facilitated an active import of Buddhist culture. In due course of time the initial antagonism between Buddhism and the Shinto was completely reversed to the point of the amalgamation of the two resulting in the doctrines of Shinbutsu-shugo or Ryobu-Shinto. In- Nara period the six sects, discussed above, were introduced from China collectively called Nantorokushu.

The exchange of official missions with China brought home the knowledge of other Buddhist doctrines like esoteric Buddhism, Pure-land Buddhism, Zen Buddhism sects, etc. which blossomed there. The most magnificent event of ancient age and a milestone in the development of Buddhism in Japan was the construction of Daibutsu, the mammoth statue of Buddha in bronze, 18 m in height in a seated posture in the temple of Todaiji in Nara by emperor Shomu in 789. The “eye-opening” ceremony was attended by not only the monks from China, Korea, India, but also Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Tang priest Dax-Xuan came along with a number of monks from China as well as the Indian monk, Bodhisena, who presided over the ceremony. Until the Heian period Buddhism continued to be the religion of upper classes and aristocracy and regarded as the protector of the nation. So such an amalgamation contributed to the growth and consolidation of the native Shinto as well. The concepts like Honji-suijaku holds that the Buddhas and gods were avattlra of Vairocana (the Tathagata), i.e. traces on earth of the original substance of divinity.

During this period there were two main monastic centres, i.e. Hieizan (Mt. Hiei) of Tendai sect and Koya san (Mt. Koya) of Shingon sect. The former sect was inspired by Tien-tie sect in China that was based on the concept that all beings have the potential for Buddhahood as given in the teachings of Lotus Sutra. Monk Saicho known by his title of Dengyo-Daishi introduced it in Japan. He went as a part of the diplomatic mission to study Buddhism to China in 804 and after his return founded Tendai sect with its monastic centre on Mt. Hiei.

The second one was based on esoteric Buddhism which had a strong influence on Kukai through Akasagarbha Mandala and later upon his visit to China in 804. He first learned Sanskrit and studied it under the teacher Hui-Kuo, who taught Womb-Store Realm, Diamond Realm and the rituals. When he returned home he spread it to Japan and brought back hundreds of volumes of Chinese translations on esoteric Buddhism, various iconical works and implements, especially Kukais. Shingon sect with emphasis on aestheticism and closer appeal to aristocracy and also with its emphasis on the mantras, brja-aksara, mandalas, dharani, samadhi, etc. also contributed to the development of art, iconography, calligraphy, and literary traditions in Japan.

In the subsequent Kamakura period there were far-reaching changes in the political situation, economic conditions, ruling power, etc. The social conditions of chaos, warfare, natural calamities affirmed the faith of people in the Buddhist concept of Mappo, the end of law (dharma). As the existing sects failed to reach out to the people, a number of new sects like Jodo-shu (Pure land sect), Jodo shin-shu, Jishu appeared which emphasized the simple practice of “Nenbutsu” among common people. On the other hand in order to garner support it merged with Shinto that resulted in Ryobu Shinto in case of the former and Sanno Shinko in case of the latter. Zen-shu also developed due to its popularity among the warrior class and support of the ruling military generals. The Zen monks contributed largely to the native art and paintings.

Among the artists there were talented monks who made paintings on Buddhist subjects in order to gain religious and spiritual merits. Some such painters of the esoteric Buddhism gained prominence due to its emphasis on iconographical drawings. Besides such amateur painters, there were the professional painters called Ebushi. They were specialized in Buddhist paintings and also undertook the jobs of decorating the religious works. There was another category of professional artists called Oshi who accepted secular commission. A number of Obushi came from Takuma-ha family. They were otherwise laymen although the distinguished Ebushi were given religious status and also awarded court ranks in recognition of their skill.

Takumaha was one such school of Ebushi, priest painters who specialized in Buddhist themes in Kamakura period. The founder was Takumaha, the priest painter who specialized in Buddhist subjects and was active in Kamakura period. The founder Takuma Tameto was the founder who was awarded the title of “Hoin.” His son painted Juniten-screen depicting the Hindu gods adopted in esoteric Buddhism at Zenkoji temple and Ryokai Maiiçlala at Toji temple in Kyoto. Another prominent name is Tori Busshi mentioned in Nihonshoki who was entrusted with Prince Shotoku. With the development of esoteric Buddhism, the amalgamation of new Shinto deities gave an added dimension. This was closely related to the developments in the faith of Amida, Miroku (Maitreya Bodhisattva), and Yakushi (Bhaiajyagurn, the Buddha of Healing) in Japan.

With the collapse of Ritsuryo system the authority of aristocracy was on decline and the constant warfare among the various powerful families vying to rule, the situation of chaos prevailed. It was worsened by the successive natural calamities and led people to believe in the prophecies of Buddha about Mappo, the period of the degeneration of Buddhist law and so relied more and more on the saving power of Buddha. Like this the base of Buddhism limited to aristocracy now spread out to include the masses with emphasis on Nembutsu, i.e. to invoke the name of Amida with complete devotion in order to be reborn in the pure land of bliss. It was Honen, also known by the names Cenku and posthumous title, Enko-Daishi, who taught people to recite Nembutsu in order to give solace to them. There was a sharp rise in the believers of Jodo sect from all parts of the country which also invited the wrath of the clerics from the other sects. His disciple Shinran founded Jodo Shinshu that emphasized mere invocation of the name of Buddha to attain salvation. It was Nichiren who extolled the Lotus Sutra as the ultimate teachings of Buddha and founded Hokke shu that emphasized the chanting of the name of Lotus Sutra, Namumyoho renge kyo.

At the same time Zen-shu gathered attention among the Samurai class due to its primary emphasis on meditation and discipline rather than metaphysical contemplations. It was introduced by monk Eisai who studied it in China where it was introduced by the Indian monk Bodhi Dharma in 520. He founded Rinzai School of Zen, and Dogen founded Soto School of Zen that emphasized Zazen.

The Zen monk Eisai introduced tea to Japan that was cultivated into a ceremony. Even during the Edo period when the authorities adopted Confucianism the Buddhist temples continued to be the centres of popular education called Terakoya (temple schools) and were run by Zen monks.

These developments resulted in the adaptation of Buddhism as a part of its culture with the construction of temples and objects associated with the rituals and prayers and so the list of implements is a long one.




  Foreword – Michaela Appeal v
  Prologue – Lokesh Chandra x
  Introduction 1
  Preface of the Japanese Editor 10
  Preface of Hidenobu 14
  List of the References 18
  1. Fudaishi and his two sons 43
  2. The four stages of the Sakyamuni 44
  3. Nine grades of Amitabha 45
  4. The seven Buddhas of Healing and Other Buddhas 49
  5. The Eight Bodhisattvas and Others 52
  6. Sixteen Mahabodhisattvas of the Vajradhatu 55
  7. The Twenty-five Bodhisattvas 59
  8. The Seven Avalokitesvaras 66
  9. Thirty-three forms of Avalokitesvara 68
  10. The Six forms of Ksitigarbha with six other Ksitigarbha 76
  11. The Bodhisattvas in Lotus Sutra 78
  12. The Five Mahabala Bodhisattvas and Others 80
  13. Five Mahavidyarajas 82
  14. Vidyaraja 83
  15. Esoteric Buddhas of Thirty days 87
  16. Thirty Corresponding Vidyadevas 87
  17. Incarnates of the Seven Shrines of the Sanno and others Incarnates 97
  18. Vidyadevas of the four Shrines of Mount Koya 100
  19. Kumaras and Four Dogmas 101
  20. The Sixteen Kumaras of Sarasvati 103
  21. The Eight Mahakumaras of Acala 105
  22. The Ten Raksasis and Parents 107
  23. Various Devas 109
  24. Saptarsi, Stars of the Seven Days 109
  25. The Nine Planets, Navagraha 111
  26. The Twenty-eight Naksatras 112
  27. The Twelve Zodiacal Mansions 117
  28. The Thirty-six Animal Figures 119
  29. The Twelve Devas 125
  30. Various Guardians 127
  31. Six Forms of Mahakala and Others 131
  32. Ten Kings of the Hell (Naraka-pala) 133
  33. Twelve Marshals of Bhaisajyaguru 137
  34. Sixteen Protectors of Mahaprajnaparamita 139
  35. Twenty-eight Marshals of Avalokitesvara 142
  36. Main Deities Enshrined in Temples 148
  37. The Thirteen Buddhas 150
  38. Nagarjuna and Other Bodhisattvas 152
  39. The Five Manifestations of Akasagarbha and Others 153
  40. The oldest Statues of Buddha in Japan 155
  41. The Twelve Titles of Amitabha 156
  42. The Idols of Thirty-three Avalokitesvara Temples in Japan 159
  43. Deities of the Six days of Uposadha 160
  44. The Seven Deities of Fortune 162
  45. Goddess of Sailors and Others Deities 163
  46. The Sixteen Arhats 167
  47. The Ten Great Disciples 171
  48. Prince Shotoku 174
  49. The Teachers of Various Sects 178
  Hosso, Sanron, Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu, Kegon, Tendai, Shingon, Zen, Jodo, Ikko, Hokke, Hosso, Tendai and other Patriarch, Gozan and other Patriarchs  
  50. Implements and Accessories 198
  Epilogue 214
  Alphabetical List of Japanese Terms 217
  Alphabetical List of Sanskrit Terms 225

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