What Role Did Zen Buddhism Play In Shaping The Art Of Japan

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Role Zen Buddhism plays in shaping the art of Japan
Japan was not a Buddhist place until it was imported from China through the Korean peninsula in the 6th century. Monks and lay Buddhist were instrumental in the practice of the new religion from mainland Asia to the Island of Japan. However, this new found religion had different practices and paths in the Japanese culture. Zen Buddhism, even though, had Chinese origin, had a new development in Japan in which there was a belief that enlightenment can be realized in believing that Buddha-nature exists in everything. So artists were more tuned to that reality in their art representation. In Contrast with European and American artists who use art to communicate an idea to the audience, the Zen artists use the art to be admired as it connect to its eternal aesthetic quality. Art was seen as a connection to the soul of the nature. For that the artist has to understand the Buddha-nature of the object. Fredric Lieberman writes this: “The Zen artist… tries to suggest by the simplest possible means the inherent nature of the aesthetic object. Anything may be painted, or expressed in poetry, and any sounds may become music. The job of the artist is to suggest the essence, the eternal qualities of the object, which is in itself a work of natural art before the artist arrives on the scene. In order to achieve this, the artist must fully understand the inner nature of the aesthetic object, its Buddha nature (1)”. The Zen Buddhism has a great influence in Japanese art. Therefore, art students in Japan do not study it for art sake, but also for religious purpose (2). A painter, for example, will have a spiritual journey while painting. He or she will look at the nature with respect and veneration. The tea ceremony, Karate and other martial arts, to cite only a few, are all influenced by the Zen philosophy in a way that Zen Buddhism web even said that without Zen, Japan would likely have never reached its high level of...
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