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Meaning and Materiality in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture

Yukio Lippit- Professor, Department of the History of Art and Architecture,Harvard University

According to sutras, sandalwood is the ideal material from which to create a Buddhist statue, because of its aroma and ability to sustain detailed carving. However, this standard created a dilemma for those Buddhist communities outside of South Asia -- most notably spread across China, Korea, and Japan -- where sandalwood did not grow locally. Consequently, the concept of 'surrogate sandalwood' began to gain currency in East Asia from the early eighth century onward, and Buddhist communities began to seek approximations for sandalwood in their own local environments. Recent art historical investigation and scientific analysis has begun to identify with a much higher degree of specificity the wood types for early East Asian Buddhist sculpture, demonstrating how an understanding of the materiality of sculpture can help yield new insights into the history and development of Buddhism. This seminar will introduce the nature of such insights in the case of Japanese Buddhism from the seventh through eleventh centuries, and thereby explore the dynamic intersection of religious studies, art history, and ecology .

Buddhist sculpture, demonstrating how an understanding of the materiality of sculpture can help yield new insights into the history and development of Buddhism. This seminar will introduce the nature of such insights in the case of Japanese Buddhism from the seventh through eleventh centuries, and thereby explore the dynamic intersection of religious studies, art history, and ecology .

Yukio Lippit is a professor at Harvard's Department of the History of Art and Architecture. His research focuses primarily on premodern Japanese painting, with a special emphasis on Sino-Japanese painting associated with Zen Buddhism and the various lineages that emerged from it during the medieval and early modern periods. He has a forthcoming book on Painting of the Realm: The Kanō House of Painters in Seventeenth Century Japan. Professor Lippit is working on a new book project titled Illusory Abode: Modes and Manners of Ink Painting in Medieval Japan, examining how ink painting as a medium enabled certain discourses about representation that emerged in Zen Buddhist communities from the thirteenth through sixteenth century.

Yukio Lippit is a professor at Harvard's Department of the History of Art and Architecture. His research focuses primarily on premodern Japanese painting, with a special emphasis on Sino-Japanese painting associated with Zen Buddhism and the various lineages that emerged from it during the medieval and early modern periods. He has a forthcoming book on Painting of the Realm: The Kanō House of Painters in Seventeenth Century Japan. Professor Lippit is working on a new book project titled Illusory Abode: Modes and Manners of Ink Painting in Medieval Japan, examining how ink painting as a medium enabled certain discourses about representation that emerged in Zen Buddhist communities from the thirteenth through sixteenth century.

Saturday, January 14, 2012 | 1:00 pm — 4:00 pm
Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building

Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
Stanford Continuing Studies