Kozuke Province

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The Buddhist Sculptures of Kozuke Province

source : ajw.asahi.com/article

Editor's Note:
The following articles are translations of reviews carried by the latest issue( No. 1393) of Kokka, a prestigious art magazine published in Japan. The publication, which specializes in old Japanese and Oriental art, was founded in 1889 by Tenshin Okakura, a well-known Japanese art critic and philosopher (1862-1913), among others. It is held in high esteem by researchers and experts aboard.

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The Buddhist Sculptures of Kozuke Province


After Buddhism was first brought to Japan around the middle of the 6th century, it soon spread from the capital cities to the regional areas. Amidst this, the beginnings of Buddhist culture appeared in Kozuke province (centering on present-day Gunma Prefecture) during the latter half of the 7th century. Fragments of molded figurines excavated at Sannohai-ji, built in the 4th quarter of the 7th century and thought to be the ruins of Hoko-ji, are said to be scenes of the Jataka Tales that appeared on the first story of a stupa.

During the Nara period, according to a document known as the Kozuke no kuni kotai jitsurokucho, a gold colored seated figure of Shaka (S: Sakyamuni) with a figure height of 250 cm, and standing attendant figures of Monju (S: Manjusri) and Fugen (S: Samantabhadra), with figure heights of 300 cm, plus Shitenno figures, were enshrined in the Kondo of Kozuke Kokubun-ji, established around the middle of the 8th century.

The earliest extant wooden Buddhist sculptures handed down in the Kozuke region date from the late Heian period onwards. The ichiboku-zukuri, or solid single block construction, figures dating from the 11th century consist of the
Standing Fudo Myoo at Soji-ji,
the Seated Fudo Myoo of Tokujo-ji,

the Standing Eleven-Headed Kannon of Onabuchi Kannondo, the Standing Eleven-Headed Kannon of Chokoku-ji, and the Standing Eleven-Headed Kannon of Nichirin-ji. In the next century, both single block construction and yosegi-zukuri, or joined hollow block construction, works appear. Typical examples from this period can be seen in the Jizo Bosatsu with Pendant Leg (S: Ksitigarbha) of Kongo-ji and the Standing Amida Nyorai figures of Choraku-ji and Iwamatsu Shoren-ji.

From the Kamakura period, early 13th century figures include the Sho-Kannon (S: Aryavalokitesvara) of Shobo-ji and the Amida Triad of Ko'on-ji. These works all continue the Fujiwara style of yosegi-zukuri, using hollow joined blocks of hinoki wood. By around the middle of the 13th century, Unkei-style images appear, such as the Standing Amida Nyorai of Fugen-ji and Kaikei-style images such as the Standing Amida Nyorai of Sozen-ji. From the latter half of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century, figures made in the front-back split yosegi-zukuri method appeared, such as the Standing Eleven-Headed Kannon of Sankoin, the hidden statue Standing Eleven-Headed Kannon of Chokoku-ji, the Standing Bato Kannon (S: Hayagriva Avalokitesvara) of Namezawa Kannondo, and the Yakushi Nyorai (S: Bhaisajya) of Otsubayakushido. On the other hand, from the 12th century onwards, when it seemed that lacquered and gilded yosegi-zukuri images completely dominated wooden images, there appears to be a concurrent and continuous production of single block construction images, such as the Shinto images at Mangyo-ji and Nitta Yoshisada at Soji-ji. Around the middle of the 13th century, various different sculptural methods began to develop in the area, such as the stone image Standing Fudo at Miyata, the bronze Senkoji-style Standing Amida Triads at Kiryu's Shoren-ji and other temples, the iron figure of a Seated Amida Nyorai at Zensho-ji, and the molded clay figure of the seated figure of Eicho Zenji at Choraku-ji. Of further note are the priest portrait sculptures at Nitta-no-sho Choraku-ji and the portrait of Shoshin Shonin at Hofuku-ji.

The two guardian figures at Myoo-in exhibit the baroque style of the Northern and Southern Courts period, while it is interesting to note that there is a fascinating glimpse of powerful, regional-style sculpture in the Muromachi period's production of the ever present technically proficient yosegi-zukuri which turned away from true sculpting.

During the Edo period, the mid-17th century Seated Amida Nyorai of Choraku-ji combines classical style with a pre-modern sense of added decorativeness. The majority of the works created during this period were small in scale, and they reflect the efficient creation of standardized forms. However, the great increase in the number of Buddhist images created conveys a sense of the deepening connection between people and Buddhist images.

The author is an art Historian(Japanese Art), Research Scholar of Buddhist Art Research Institute, Inc.


Standing Fudo Myoo(S: Acalanatha)

Wood with white undercoating, polychrome and carved eyeballs
Fig.H. 99.5 cm
Soji-ji, Ota City

This image is noteworthy as one of the few standing images of Fudo, dating prior to Jocho. The honpa style of alternating high and low areas of drapery folds shows extremely shallow carving of the drapery folds. The thin chest, and face with slightly smaller than usual eyebrow and eye forms are all characteristic of images created in the first half of the 11th century.

Two features, namely the face turned to the right and the appearance of raised knees with skirt hems symmetrically arranged to the right and left of center, are all shared with two major examples of early period, pre-Jocho standing images of Fudo at Myoho-in and Taisan-ji. These two characteristics accord with the Standing Fudo depicted in the "Chuo-zu" of the Ninnokyo gohoshoson-zu said to be in the hand of Kukai. Thus it can be thought that the sculptural images of standing Fudo figures were created under the influence of this Chuho-zu image.

This figure is shown in walking pose with one foot raised. This pose is said to represent the function of this deity as a guide to the afterlife, and is modeled after such images as the Amida Nyorai in Cave 16 at the Anyue-Yuanjue Caves in Sichuan province, China. Prayers to Fudo were one element of Heian period Buddhist funerary rituals, and thus it is possible that this type of Fudo image was created for the role of guide for the deceased to the Pure Land.

The author is an art historian(Japanese art), Inspector at the Agency for Cultural Affairs

MORE DETAILS in this article ABOUT

Jizo Bosatsu (S: Ksitigarbha) with One Leg Pendant
Wood with lacquer, gilding and carved eyeballs
Kongo-ji, Ota City

Seated Amida Nyorai (S: Amitabha)
Zensho-ji, Maebashi City

Standing Amida (S: Amitabha) Triad
Gilt bronze
Shoren-ji, Kiryu City

Standing Eleven Headed Kannon (S: Ekadasa-mukha)
Wood with lacquer, gilding and crystal eyeballs
Sanko-in, Numata City

Figure Seated in a Chair, Traditionally Said to be
Nitta Yoshisada
Wood with traces of polychrome and crystal eyeballs
Soji-ji, Ota City

Seated Figure of Gessen Shinkai
Wood with original faded polychrome and later wodden eyeballs
Choraku-ji, Ota City


Koozuke no Kuni 上野国 Kozuke - now mostly 群馬県 Gunma prefecture

Nitta Yoshisada
(1301 – August 17, 1338)
was the head of the Nitta family in the early fourteenth century, and supported the Southern Court of Emperor Go-Daigo in the Nanboku-chō period, capturing Kamakura from the Hōjō clan in 1333.

. Temple Kinryuji 金竜寺, Ota town, Gunma .

. Yoshisada Nitta 新田義貞 - Kamakura .

- quote -
Kanayama Castle (金山城 Kanayama-jō),
also known as Ōta Kanayama Castle and
as Nitta Kanayama Castle
is a yamashiro (castle sited on a hill) located on top of Mount Kanayama in Ōta, Gunma Prefecture, Japan.
Kanayama Castle was built in 1469 by Iwamatsu Iezumi. In 1528, a retainer of the Iwamatsu Clan, Yokose Narishige (his family later changed their name to Yura), began ruling over it. The castle withstood sieges by Uesugi Kenshin in 1574, Takeda Katsuyori in 1580, and Satake Yoshishige in 1583. The Hōjō clan captured the lord of Tatebayashi Castle, Nagao Akinaga, and Yura Kunishige. The two brothers gave the Hōjō Kanayama Castle, under the condition that he be released. In 1590, as part of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign against the Hōjō, Kanayama Castle was seized by Maeda Toshiie. Following this, the castle was abandoned and never used again. The castle's ruins (which have partly been restored) are currently maintained by the City of Ota.
It was long believed
until 1965 that the tenshu (keep) of Kanayama Castle was moved to Inuyama Castle by Ishikawa Mitsuyoshi in 1559. Such theory was disapproved as a result of examination through a large scale restoration work, involving the dismantling of the donjon of Inuyama Castle, carried out between 1961 and 1965.
- source : wikipedia -

- Kanayama Castle 金山城
- source : jcastle.info/castle/profile -


#kozuke #nittayoshisada

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