Tag Archives: Japanese and religions

Grate Statues of Buddha

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( Photo by (c) Ashinari)

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You, an avid film buff, please try a short quiz. This Great Buddha appeared on a film work. If you can answer this question without clues, you are a genuine cinema maven. But I’m sorry to give you prize money like a TV show. For people who are not remind of, I’ll give you two clues. The first is “young Shirley MacLean”. The second is “80 days”. Oh! It reminds you of the famous title, “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1956).

In the movie, an English gentleman, a main character, and his party went through Japan. A film director Michael Anderson made an impressive use of Mt. Fuji and this Great Buddha as the symbols of Japan.

Handsome Buddha in Kamakura

 

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( Photo by (c) Ashinari)

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Great Statue of Buddha in Kamakura, about 60 kilometers to the south west from Tokyo

 

 

A female poet praised and described this Buddha as a good-looking guy. Women that ever lived always like handsome men. (Sorry for ladies, statues of Buddha do not have gender.)

By the way, this Great Buddha was originally plated with gold and placed in a colossal hall to protect the statue from weather when it was first constructed in the 13th century. Unfortunately, within 100 years, a natural disaster destroyed the big hall and exposed the Buddha, and gold gilt was gradually removed. However, this rust tone creates a quaint atmosphere which is suitable for an old city of Kamakura. It is exactly that “bad luck often brings good luck”.

Interestingly, the back of the great statue has two windows for ventilation and the inside is completely empty. You can enter it for \20 (about 20 cents).

Next, I would like to introduce much more another Big Buddha.

 

 

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Grand Project with National Pride

 

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( Photo by (c) Tomo.Yun )

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The colossal hall of the Great Buddha in Nara

 

 

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The Great Buddha in Nara

 

 

The first construction of the Great Buddha in Japan dates back to 8th century which is called “the Nara Period” named after the capital Nara at that time.

The important differences between the Great Buddha in Kamakura and that in Nara are the quantity of used bronze and the inside of the latter is not empty. And a colossal hall, the biggest wooden structure in the world, still protects the statue from rain or storm. The Buddha sits squarely inside.

In the first place, they vary in size. Kamakura Buddha is 11-meter high (36 feet) and 120 tons (132 US t) in weight, whereas Nara Buddha is 15-meter (50 feet) and as much as 250 tons (275 US t).

According to an estimate by a theoretical economist, the total cost would amount to ¥465,700,000,000 (about 4.65 billion dollars at an assumed exchange rate of 100 yen to the dollar) if the Statue were built by the construction method of the day. Well surprisingly, this amount is the three times as much money as the annual national budget at that time!

Why did ancient Japanese construct such a big Buddha at the cost of huge funds and labor?

 

 

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Reference and cooperation by this site. : How the Buddha Statue was Built?

 

To Ease Social Anxiety: Domestic Warfare and Pandemic

 

 

Before the Great Buddha was constructed, civil wars had broken out and the spread of smallpox stroke this country. In modern days, we know epidemics are caused by viruses or bacteria. However, people of that time did not know anything about the reason. They imagined the pandemic was due to any curse. People were particularly terrified of the death of four brothers because of smallpox. They were leading court aristocracies and deliberately killed their rivals. This was just a coincidence for us today, but ancient people felt sure that dead brothers had been cursed. In the midst of public fear, then emperor “Shomu” made a plan to build the Great Buddha in the capital of Nara, calm the curse and unify people’s mind. This is why the Great Buddha was expected to play an important role as the core of the nation. In the completion ceremony, a monk from far-gone India attended all the way. This huge temple named “Todaiji” is now designated as a World Heritage site.

 

 

Religions and Japanese People

 

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( Photo by (c) Ashinari)

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A Christmas tree and the Tokyo Tower in the lower left angle

 

 

In Europe as the Roman Empire, Christianity spread among common people, and the Empire persecuted the religion. On the other hand, when Buddhism whose origin was India came to Japan, the national government willingly embraced the foreign teaching. The purpose was to stabilize Japan of the time by the power of the religion. It was surprised that monks received favorable treatment as government officials.

Although there was Shintoism as a native religion in Japan, emperor Shomu and people around him thought Buddhism had more “good effects” than Shintoism. However, they did not deny Shintoism though they felt it had less effective against terrified curse. Monotheists cannot believe Japanese attitude against religions. The answer to your question is that Japan has had culture of polytheism. Glowing statues of Buddha gave new and wonderful enchantments. Present Japanese people have long inherited the same attitude that they accept religions in terms of aesthetic feeling not teaching itself. In Christmas seasons, for example, Japanese people decorate Christmas trees which are brilliant and glittering.

 

 


When and Where?

The Birthplace of Statues and Giant Buddha.

 

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Left top corner is the Gandhara region.

 

 

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Public Domain

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Buddhist Head in Gandhara region

 

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The propagation route of Buddhism

 

 

Here, I come back to Buddha’s Images. Originally, there were not any statues in Buddhism. In the 5th century BC, Buddha himself preached to large crowds, but it was in the 1st century BC that Buddha statues first appeared in the history in the Gandharan region which is now the northern area of Pakistan. This region at that time had been influenced by ancient Greek statues because Alexander the great conquered this region as well. And sculptors there tried to carve the images of Buddha. As the Image 10, this Buddha statue looks like a Greek! History is really a chain of accidental coincidences. If it had not been for Alexander the great, Buddha statues would have come into existence. Buddha himself would be embarrassed to see his own statues.

Moreover, Great Buddha first appeared in the Central Asia. People who accumulated wealth by the trade using the ancient Silk Road started to build huge statues of Buddha. The Mogao Caves in Dun Huang, China have affluent cultural assets and are designated as World heritage.

 

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( Photo by (c) Photo AC)

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The Mogao Caves in Dun Huang

 

 

 

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( Photo by (c) TRAVEL SARAY INC.)

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Great Buddha in the Mogao Caves in Dun Huang, Central Asia

 

Cultures Have been Blended and Blended

 

The world is big and full of various cultures. Therefore, we mistakenly perceive one culture as unique existence. However, the art works of Buddha statues suggest that the Great Statue of Buddha had been influenced by an ancient Greece. It is no exaggeration.

Yet in Japan, the face of Buddha has been changed into one Japanese prefer. Japanese Buddha statues are not what it used to be in Gandharan Buddha like a Greek.

On strange occasions, we become friends and even husbands and wives. Cultures created by human interaction are the accumulation of pure happenstance.

 

 

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( Photo by (c) いらすとや)

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I am looking forward to seeing you here in Japan!