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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Japanese hasso Nirvana tradition of paintings : an iconological study Hunter, Harriet Jean


The purposes of this thesis are to draw attention to and document the radical change that occurred in the Japanese iconographic representation of the Buddha's Parinirvana during the first half of the 13th century; and to relate this iconographic shift to parallel changes in the iconologic accounts of the Nara sects. Specifically. I will assign responsibility for certain of these changes to the early Kamakura monk My6e Shonin (1173-1232). Japanese art historians (Nakano, 1978; Yanagisawa, 1979) have speculated about similar lines of influence. To date, however, a clearly substantiated argument linking the writings of Myoe Shonin to the iconographic changes which emerged in the same historic context has not been made. The research problem is to attempt to establish such linkages by drawing parallels between Myde's revival of the Shaka cult and the associated changes in the subsequent Nirvana painting tradition. Three iconographically distinct images of the Buddha's Nirvana scene will be examined. First, an older iconographic type, exemplified by the painting in the ECong6bu-ji collection (referred to as Type I), will be discussed in order to set the historical context of interpretation. Second, attention will be drawn to the dramatic changes away from this earlier Type I tradition and focused upon a qualitatively different iconographic style present in the icons in the Ryugan-ji and Manju-ji temple collections (referred to as Type II images). Efforts will be made to establish that these changes reflect the writings, teachings, and practices of Myoe Shonin.

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