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Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (Asian Religions & Culture S.)

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Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (Asian Religions & Culture S.)

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Buddhist images are ubiquitous in Japan, yet they are rarely accorded much attention in studies of Buddhist monastic traditions. Scholars of religion tend to regard Buddhist images as mere symbols or representations of religious ideals, commemorations of saints and patriarchs, ancillary aids to meditative practice, or the focus of lay piety. Art historians approach these images as works of art suitable for stylistic and iconographic analysis. Yet neither of these groups of scholars has adequately appreciated the centrality and significance of images and image worship in Japanese monastic practice. The essays in this volume focus on the historical, institutional, and ritual context of a number of Japanese Buddhist paintings, sculptures, calligraphies, and relics some celebrated, others long overlooked. Robert H. Sharf s introduction examines the reasons for the marginalization of images by modern Buddhist apologists and Western scholars alike, tackling the thorny question of whether Buddhists were in fact idolators.

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