Zenkoji and Its Icon
A Study in Medieval Japanese Religious Art
AUTHOR: McCallum, Donald F.
PUBLISHER: Princeton University Press
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One of the most significant traditions of image-making in medieval Japanese Buddhist art is based on a large group of gilt-bronze icons representing the Buddha Amida and his two attendant Bodhisattvas. The prototype, a secret image enshrined at Zenkoji in Nagano Prefecture, served as the basis both for numerous replications found in temples throughout Japan and for a highly developed cult that promised believers various rewards, including release from the terrors of hell and ultimate salvation in the Western Paradise of Amida. Donald McCallum takes a broad, multidisciplinary approach to relating this icon tradition to broader currents in Japanese political, social, and religious history.
Rather than reifying the icons as objects of art designed for aesthetic contemplation, the book focuses on the real issues that motivated their production. McCallum devotes particular attention to examining how worshipers conceived of the Zenkoji icon, which was believed by many to be actually alive. The long time span during which the Zenkoji Amida triads were made and worshiped, along with the relationship that the cult had to all levels of society, makes the tradition an interesting barometer of significant developments in Japanese history. Consequently, the work is of value to a variety of specialists, including historians of Japanese art, Japanese political and religious history, Asian art and religion, and icon-making in general.
PUBLICATION DATE: 7/25/1994
CATEGORY: Art, Religion