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Buddhist Sculptures 仏像

Buddha Statues, Buddhist Arts, Drawings,etc.

Strolling around Kyōto, one may easily forget that Buddhist temples are not only about gardens and seasonal beauty. In fact, Buddhist temples most often are open-air art museum. Architecture, paintings, sculptures and statues - all in front of your eyes.

The abundance of art found at temples throughout Japan can almost be frightening to non-experts (like myself): "Ah yes, another Buddha...," one finds themselves all to easily thinking. But look closer! Buddhist sculptures and statues (butsuzō) are often fascinating works of woodcarving. Sometimes massive in scale (e.g. Tōdai-ji's and Kamakura's Great Buddhas), more often of smaller size, an almost unbelievable skill is behind each individual sculpture.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the sculptures are strictly no photography. The reasons therefore remain vividly debated, even among monks: religious taboo? too many tourists who would damage the works? not wanting anybody but authorized photographers to capture their property?


Luckily, in some places, it is possible to take pictures. Sometimes, I got permission from the monks directly.

Personal sidenote: although I did study Buddhist iconography back in my undergraduate days, I forgot most about the topic. Instead, I recommend everybody who is interested to take a look at Mark Schumacher's amazing Dictionary of Buddhist Deities (online).

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