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Hanging scroll ancient Japanese art

The Heian Period brought about many noteworthy hanging scroll ancient Japanese arts. This period is divided into two parts, with the first hundred years known as the Kōnin or Jōgan era, and the remaining three centuries as the Fujiwara age. Arts from the Jōgan era were highly influenced by Chinese culture and Buddhism. Most of the art forms from this time were either Buddhist writings or mandalas. Jōgan statues were mostly made of wood, and often smaller than Tempyo statues.

Mandalas are one of the most important examples of Heian paintings. Only few of these paintings have survived. Mandalas were mounted in hanging scrolls and painted on walls for meditative purposes. Mandalas can be seen in Kyoto temples like Toji and Jingoji. When the cultural and diplomatic exchanges with China have ceased in 894, their cultural influence also declined, and new trends in pictorial arts have flourished.

One of the most famous art creations in the latter part of Heian period is the painting in the walls and doors of Phoenix Hall at Byodoin. The features of Amida Nyorai, seen descending from heaven to welcome departed souls to paradise, were regarded as never seen before. Buddha faces and bodhisattvas were also painted with a more gentle expression compared to early Buddha paintings.

Yamato-e refers to the native Japanese painting style practiced by non-Buddhist artists that drifted away from the influences of China’s Tang dynasty. Considered as a masterpiece on that time, the Genji monogatari emaki is a narrative handscroll that featured men and women with stereotypical faces. Other examples of important handscrolls are: Scroll of Frolicking Animals, Legends of Mt. Shigi Narrative Scroll and Scroll of the Courtier Ban Dainagon.

Another famous artwork of the Heian period is the painting of bodhisattva Fugen or Samantabhadra. She was depicted with a demeanor of a noble lady. Sitting on a white elephant with six tusks, Fugen was the protector of Hokekyo or the believers of Lotus Sutra. This painting promotes the view that a woman is also worthy of salvation, just like the man. This drew the interest of many women from that era.

During the late Heian period, a popular believe of mappo emerged; it was believed that as the end of the cycle of Buddhist Law approaches, so was the end of the world. Because of this, the practice of copying sutras to help in gaining salvation merits had become rampant. Fan-shaped pages were used to paint excerpts from Lotus Sutra. All these calligraphy arts and painting were regarded as masterpieces of the Heian period.


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