How to House a Foreign God?
March 26, 2018 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
How to House a Foreign God?: On Scale, Medium, and Material Culture of Buddhism in Early Japan
Date: 26 March 2018 (Monday)
Venue: Room 7.58, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
What roles did small-scale architectural shrines play in the establishment of Buddhism in early Japan and its material culture? This talk charts the production, circulation, and reception of such artifacts in the Japanese archipelago from the sixth to the seventh centuries, with specific focus on the Tamamushi Shrine. Despite its fame as a national treasure, the shrine’s formal and conceptual ingenuity is often occluded by iconographic analysis, which tends to limit the understanding of the shrine to specific motifs derived from a single medium or scripture. This talk argues that the efficacy of microarchitecture as exemplified by the Tamamushi Shrine lay precisely in its experiments with scale, spatial-temporal perceptions, and intermediality. I argue that the propagation of such artifacts registered a critical moment at the dawn of Buddhism in early Japan, in which different modes of visual and religious practices, both pre-existing and imported, were reconfigured by ruling elites to negotiate their interests and aspirations in response to the socio-political changes across East Asia.
Speaker: Chun-wa Chan
Mr. Chan is nearing completion of his PhD at the University of Michigan, with a dissertation entitled Female Sovereign, Immigrant Technocrats: The Opportunity of Buddhism in Early Japan. A specialist in early and contemporary Japanese art and material culture, Mr. Chan has received doctoral awards, including a fellowship with the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C.