Friday, December 23, 2005

How to appreciate Japanese temples and shrines 日本の神社仏閣の楽しみ方(終)

Buddhist influence on shrine
The development of Shinto shrine may roughly be divided into two stages, namely, the straight-line period which is the purely native style of Japan before the advent of Buddhism. After the introduction of Buddhism from China and Korea in the middle of the sixth century (552 A.D.), Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples began to be integrated into the same architectural complex in the period called curved-line period. Today one can find Shinto elements in many Japanese Buddhist shrines; Chinese styles, imported with the new religion, likewise influenced the development of Shinto shrines. The Shinto shrine structure became more elaborate under the influence of the grander Chinese style of Buddhist temples. It seems that straight lines are in perfect harmony with plain or unpainted shrines, while curved or complicated lines with the shrines which are painted and decorated with carvings. The existing examples of the former one are Taisha style of Izumo shrine and Shinmei style of Ise shrine. The latter has a number of styles. For example, Kasuga(春日) style- kasuga shrine, Nagare(流れ) style, found in the country countless number of Shinto shrines and comparatively easy to build, but looks highly graceful as far as its external form. Its example is Kamo shrine in Kyoto and Meiji Jingu in Tokyo. Hachiman style, used for Hachiman, the god of war. Next is Gongen style, used for the shrines of deified humans. Its examples are Hachiman shrine in Kamakura and Nikko Toshogu. The rise of a powerful aristocracy in the Fujiwara clan also contributed to the changes. Shrines reflected family honor and noble families commissioned the designs and supported the building of many new magnificent shrines in Kyoto and Nara, cities where one may still find the most beautiful and elaborate shrines in Japan.

After the ninth century, Esoteric Buddhism made great headway in absorbing Shinto. These sects stressed that the Buddha deities-indeed all beings- were ultimately emanations of cosmic Buddha. Just as Amaterasu was identified with the cosmic Buddha, so all kami could be identified with appropriate Buddhist deities.
In Edo and Meiji period, various people attempted to reformulate Shinto as a separate, native tradition, and to place it above the foreign Buddhism. Therefore, the shrines constructed in this period were beautiful, monumental and dedicated to various figures mythical and historical, who had contributed to the greater glory of the imperial institution or the country. They were built in Shinmei style by bare wood and in vast spaces, supposedly untainted by Buddhist influence. They are usually called Jingu rather than Jinja. Its examples are Meiji Jingu, Yasukuni Jinja, Kashihara Jingu. Because of its close ties to the militarism that led to World War II, State Shinto organization was disestablished in 1945.

There are three main types of shrine. First, there are those of purely local significance, housing the kami of the locality (ujigami). Second, there are shrines of a particular recurrent type, such as the Inari Shrines(稲荷), which are visited with a view to winning business success. These may be found in any part of the country. Third, there are shrines of great national and semi-political importance such as the Ise(伊勢), Izumo, Meiji Jingu, and Yasukuni Jinja (靖国神社)mentioned earlier. Other types of shrine that recur throughout the country include the Hachimangu(八幡宮) Shrines, dedicated to the kami of war and martial prowess, the Toshogu(東照宮) Shrines, sacred to the memory of the dictator-general Ieyasu (died 1616) and reflecting the colourful pomp of his mausoleum at Nikko, the Tenmangu Shrines where a loyal but wrongfully banished aristocrat is revered and believers pray for success in literature and study, Sumiyoshi(住吉), which is dedicated to the kami of seafarers, Tenjin(天神), which is dedicated to the deified Heian-period scholar Sugawara no Michizane. The famous one is Kitano Tenman-gu in Kyoto.
Popular shrines
Besides those mentioned earlier, the important shrines which are worthwhile to visit include Fushimi Inari Taisha(伏見稲荷大社), Heian Jingu(平安神宮), Kitano Tenman-gu(北野天満宮), Kibitsu Jinja(吉備津神社), Kotohira-gu(琴平宮), Oyamazumi Jinja(大山済み神社), Miyajima, Dazaifu Tenman-gu(宮島大宰府天満宮), and Takachino.


1. Robert S. Ellwood and Richard Pilgrim (1992), Japanese religion: a cultural perspective, Prentice Hall, USA.
2. June Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky (1998), Gateway to Japan, Kodansha, Japan.
3. Aisaburo Akiyama (1955), Shinto and its architecture, Tokyo News Service, Tokyo.
4. Dorling Kindersley (2000), Japan, London.
5. Minoru Oka (1973), Temples in Nara and their arts, John Weatherhill Inc., Japan.
6. Takaaki Sawa (1972), Arts in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, John Weatherhill Inc., Japan.


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