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Article

Kōmyō  

Samuel C. Morse

(b ad 701; d 760).

Japanese empress, Buddhist patron and calligrapher. She was the consort of Shōmu, her half-brother and the 45th emperor of Japan (reg 724–49). Kōmyō was the daughter of Fujiwara no Fubito (659–720), a powerful aristocrat who was also the father of Shōmu’s mother, and Agata Inukai no Tachibana no Michiyo (d 733). Kōmyō and Shōmu, who married in 716, were two of the most fervent Buddhist patrons in the history of Japanese art. They and their family are said to have commissioned 24 complete sets of the Buddhist canon of texts (Jap. issaikyō or daizōkyō), at that time numbering 5048 volumes, and they frequently took up the brush to copy sūtras and the Chinese classics themselves. No extant works can be firmly attributed to Kōmyō, but a copy of the Luoyi lun (Jap. Gakkiron; Nara, Shōsōin) in the style of the 4th-century master Wang Xizhi (...

Article

Saga  

Samuel C. Morse

(b ad 786; reg 809–23; d 842).

Japanese emperor, poet, calligrapher and patron of the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism. Along with Kūkai and Tachibana no Hayanari, he is regarded as one of the Sanpitsu (Three Brushes; master calligraphers) of the Heian period (ad 794–1185) (see Japan §VII 2., (ii)). He was the second son of Emperor Kanmu (reg 781–806), who founded the capital Heian (now Kyoto) in 794, and Empress Otomuro (ad 760–90). In 809 he succeeded his half-brother, Emperor Heizei (reg 806–9), to the throne as the 52nd emperor of Japan, and although he abdicated in 823, Saga remained the most powerful figure at court until his death. Politically the most significant event of his career occurred in 810 when Heizei attempted to return the centre of government to the old capital of Heijō (now Nara). Saga and his allies quickly crushed the rebellion, thereby assuring a pre-eminent cultural role for Kyoto in subsequent Japanese history. Saga had a deep passion for Chinese culture. He actively promoted the use of Chinese modes of dress and the adoption of Chinese nomenclature for the various structures of the imperial palace. He wrote accomplished poetry in Chinese and was responsible for the compilation of two imperial anthologies, the ...

Article

Shōmu  

Samuel C. Morse

(b Heijō [now Nara], ad 701; reg 724–49; d Nara, 756).

Forty-fifth emperor of Japan, patron of Buddhism and calligrapher. He was the eldest son of Emperor Monmu (reg 697–707) and Fujiwara no Miyako [Kyūshi] (d 754), daughter of Fujiwara no Fuhito (659–720), a powerful aristocrat who was also the father of Shōmu’s consort, Empress Kōmyō. His reign, which almost coincided with the Tenpyō era (729–49), was marked by a flowering of culture and religion, dominated by the emperor and his consort. Fine Buddhist paintings were created, as were sculptures, made not only of wood and gilt bronze but also of new materials such as clay and dry lacquer (kanshitsu). Shōmu and Kōmyō established a scriptorium within the imperial palace and frequently commissioned sets of the Buddhist texts to be disseminated throughout the country. Skilled calligraphers themselves, they also copied sūtras and the Chinese classics. No extant works can be firmly attributed to Shōmu, but a small number of objects long associated with him reflect his familiarity with the styles of the great 4th-century Chinese master Wang Xizhi (...

Article

John T. Carpenter

(b Asuka, ad 574; d Asuka, 622).

Japanese crown prince (taishi), statesman, patron of Buddhism and the arts and calligrapher. He was known during his lifetime by various nicknames reflecting the circumstances of his birth and his personal attributes. Although historical evidence has been obscured by legend, the Nihon shoki (‘Chronicle of Japan’; 720) suggests that Shōtoku wielded political power by serving as regent for his aunt, Empress Suiko (reg 593–628), after an intense six-year power struggle over the imperial succession. He is said to have instituted reforms of the court rank system, initiated diplomatic relations with China and helped frame the Seventeen-Article Constitution (Jūshichijō no kenpō; 604), an early statement of Japanese universalist philosophy, consisting of moral injunctions for government officials. More significantly, he was a fervent patron of Buddhism who helped foster closer religious and cultural ties with the continent. He is believed to have lectured on three Buddhist sūtras, the ...