The name Buddha means ‘Enlightened One.’ Buddhism was founded in India in the 500s BCE, and by the time it made its way into Japan in 552 CE, it was already well-established. However, Buddhism had evolved and the type that reached Japan was called Mahayana, which stressed the importance of family and ancestral worship, ideals already in Japanese culture. It is sometimes considered a “religion of the dead” as it held funerals and ceremonies and priestly duties included care of temple graveyards.

Mahayana believed that requests (e.g. recovery, wealth) involved reciting sutras, performing rituals and spiritual exercises, and using special objects (amulets). Tantrism believes that absolute truth is present in all phenomena, as in mandala – sacred diagrams or statues, mantra - sacred utterings (‘Om’), and mudra – ritual gestures. Buddhas are often shown making mudras, each of which has special meaning. All of these had a big influence on Buddhist iconography (statues) in Japan.

The name Buddha means ‘Enlightened One.’ Buddhism was founded in India in the 500s BCE, and by the time it made its way into Japan in 552 CE, it was already well-established. However, Buddhism had evolved and the type that reached Japan was called Mahayana, which stressed the importance of family and ancestral worship, ideals already in Japanese culture. It is sometimes considered a “religion of the dead” as it held funerals and ceremonies and priestly duties included care of temple graveyards.

Mahayana believed that requests (e.g. recovery, wealth) involved reciting sutras, performing rituals and spiritual exercises, and using special objects (amulets). Tantrism believes that absolute truth is present in all phenomena, as in mandala – sacred diagrams or statues, mantra - sacred utterings (‘Om’), and mudra – ritual gestures. Buddhas are often shown making mudras, each of which has special meaning. All of these had a big influence on Buddhist iconography (statues) in Japan.

© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.

This seated figure displays many characteristics of a typical Buddha with a calm expression, robe, and long earlobes.

This figure displays many characteristics of a typical Buddha. Note: a halo behind its head; bump on head - extra knowledge; a mark above eyebrows - insight; calm expression - deep thought; long earlobes where he once wore heavy earrings; simple monk’s robe; hands in mudras; cross-legged with soles of feet facing upwards; and sitting on top of a throne shaped like an open lotus flower.

Unknown
Irving Dwinnell Bequest
18th Century
JAPAN
AGGV 67.80 a-c
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


This hanging scroll would be considered a national treasure of Japan, were it in Japan.

This hanging scroll watercolour painting with cut gold leaf on silk, which can be hung on a wall and used for meditation, would be considered a national treasure of Japan, were it in Japan.

Unknown
Fred and Isabel Pollard Collection
c. 1392
JAPAN
AGGV 1965.128.001
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Bodhidarma, creator of Zen Buddhism, crossing the Yangzi on a reed.

Bodhidarma, creator of Zen Buddhism, crossing the Yangzi on a reed.

Ekun Fugai
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. R. W. Finlayson, Toronto
c. 1625
CHINA
AGGV 79.2
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


This bronze Buddha statue in Kamakura is the second largest in Japan and draws many visitors.

This bronze statue, commonly called Daibutsu, is located on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple in Kamakura, just south of Tokyo. As the second largest of the numerous Buddha statues in Japan, it draws many visitors.

Unknown
Wikimedia Commons

Kamakura, JAPAN
© Public Domain


Learning Objectives

The following learning objectives have been created with considerable and specific reference to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) for various grades and subjects as outlined by the Ministry of Education for the province of British Columbia. The portions that directly reflect curricula language have been italicized. All applicable texts, websites, and other learning resources are listed in the bibliography under References.

• Students will review the movement of Buddhism from India to Japan, and have an understanding of the basic tenants, and also grasp how certain organizations can be created or borrowed in order to meet the needs or wants in a society.
• Students will learn about certain aspects of Mahayana Buddhism, the variety that reached Japan and by comparing the different types of Buddhism (Mahayana, Zen), Students will evaluate the components of value systems within and among cultures.
• Students will have a greater appreciation of the variety of art forms used to illustrate the teachings of Buddha (meditation scrolls, statues etc.) and of how a society’s artistic expression reflects its culture and also describe the ways in which art and artefacts mirror and shape society.


Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans