I N T H E P U B LI C DO M AI N : A T W E L F T H C E N T U R Y S H O K A N N O N B O S A T S U A T T H E N G V – TAASA Review June 2012


This article was originally found in the June 2012 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 21, Issue 2, Page 17).

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Wayne Crothers T he collection of Japanese Buddhist art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) spans 124 years, with the first work entering the collection in 1887 and the most recent a magnificent 12th century Sho-Kannon Bosatsu acquired in 2011 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gallery. Early forms of Buddhism arriving in Japan during the 6th century from China and Korea were practices of Mahayana Buddhism (also known as the Greater Vehicle or Northern Buddhism).

They emphasised the concept of universal salvation via elaborate rituals and the worshiping of a complex array of deities that includes the historical Buddha and his various incarnations, saints known as Bosatsu, wisdom kings My and heavenly beings Tembu. With the spread of Mahayana Buddhism in Japan during the Nara and Heian periods (710 – 1185) unique sculptural styles of these deities developed with characteristically Japanese features of which the NGV’s recently acquired Sho Kannon Bosatsu is a preeminent example.

In particular, the celebrated sculptor Jch (died 1057) established a new style of Japanese sculpture...