Historically, Japanese and Chinese are said to be non-analytical people. They therefore tend to be eclecticism and integrational synthesis. The Japanese culture was drastically invaded by the Asian continental culture during the Asuka and Nara era. The Asuka era is the period between 552 and 710 AD when the Japanese government seat was based in the Asuka Valley. On the other hand, the Nara era is the period between 710 and 784 AD when the Japanese government seat was relocated to Nara city. It is at this time that Buddhism was transmitted to Japan from Korea and China. Prior to 552, Japanese native faith was predominated by mountain and Shinto shamanism worship (Schumacher par. 4). At this time Japanese believed in magical powers and nature spirits. Buddhism is argued to have arisen from a natural and analytical setting in India (Phuoc 66). Upon introduction into Japan, Buddhism was transformed via incorporation into the Japanese culture. This gave rise to different Japanese Buddhist sects (Schumacher par.8). This essay explores the Chinese influence on Japanese Buddhist art and architecture during the Asuka period through the Nara era.
Buddhism Culture in Japanese Art
Japanese art and architecture is said to be rectilinear. The right angle is therefore emphasized in Japanese art and architecture. Buddhism culture was first introduced in Japan by Koreans. This entailed bronze casting, large temple and palace construction and changes in the details and sloping of roofs (Phuoc 66). However, it should be noted that China had a primary influence on Japanese Buddhism culture. The missionaries who introduced Buddhism in Japan from Korea and China also came along with artisans. These artisans were knowledgeable in techniques and arts of reproducing Buddhist sutras and icons. This explains why there was increased number of Buddhist deities’ gilt bronze statues during the Asuka period. One of the greatest structure that was constructed during the Asuka period that shows Chinese influence on Japanese art and architecture if the Horyuji temple complex. Since 1993, the temple has been designated as the UNESCO World Heritage. The building is considered to be one of the greatest repositories for Buddhist works. The traditional Japanese roofs resembled those of the Malays which are either tiled, flat or shingled (Young 38). It is therefore argued that curved roofs might have been introduced in Japan by the Chinese. Apart from rituals, Buddhism also introduced texts into Japan. The texts had unprecedented effect on Japan during the Asuka period. The Japanese courts became interested in Buddhism at this period. The interest did not emanate from the desire to have people saved through Buddhism instead they wanted to use Buddhism to consolidate state power.
Influence of Chinese on Japanese Art During the Nara Period
The true influence of Chinese on Japanese art and architecture was experienced during the Nara period. Heijoukyou (Nara) to where the capital was relocated from Asuka was based on Chang’an (Chinese capital). This underscored Tang culture, architecture, sculpture and painting that previously predominated in Japan. Japan was mainly ruled by Emperor Shomu during this period. One of his significant contributions to art during this period was the construction of the Great Buddha. It is reported that Shomu played an active role in the construction of the Birushana giant bronze image. This image was completed in 752 AD. Wooden statues began to gain popularity in Japan during this period. The artistic skills, knowledge and techniques to construct statues from wood came from China and Korea during this period. The sculptures were based on classic realism. It is argued that the use of wood for sculpting statues became more popular than bronze statues at this period. Most of wooden statues in Japan during this era were made of kusu (camphor). A new technique of constructing statues called Kanishitsu was also introduced in Japan by Chinese during the Nara period. The technique competed with other techniques such as wooden sculpture and metal sculptures. Dry lacquer and clay were also popular techniques for constructing statues during this period even though they were outweighed by wooden statues. The best example of this is the Kofukuji temple sculptures which were constructed using clay and dry lacquer. The discovery of copper in Japan during the Nara period saw many large statues made of bronze put up during the Nara period.
The Nara period was also characterized by changes in the building architecture. Prior to the Nara period Japan was predominated by the Shinto architecture. This architecture involved building shrines on the basis of the environment in which they were building. The buildings had torii gate and Komainu. The advent of Buddhist architecture resulted in construction of places of worshiping Buddha. The architectural forms used to construct these buildings in 8th century originated from Korea and China. The architecture mostly reflected the Chinese Tang style architecture. This architecture emphasized stability, balance and structure in addition to partitioning. These buildings had seven primary structures which included the pagoda, the lecture hall, the sutras repository, the main hall, the bell tower, the dining hall and the dormitory. The temple was also enclosed in earthen wall that had gates on both sides. Toshodaiji temple situated in Nara is the best illustration of the Chinese Tang style architecture.
In conclusion, the introduction of Buddhism in Japan brought about many artistic and architectural changes in Japan. Most of these changes were either directly or indirectly orchestrated by Chinese architects and artists. The Asuka and Nara period have characteristic features that attest to the influence of china on Japanese art and architecture. This includes partitioning of buildings and structures with stable and balanced architecture.