Buddhism played an important role in the development of Japanese art between the 6th and the 16th centuries. Buddhist art and Buddhist religious thought came to Japan from China through Korea and Buddhist art was encouraged by Crown Prince Shōtoku in the Suiko period in the sixth century and by Emperor Shōmu in the Nara period in the eighth century. In the early Heian period Buddhist art and architecture greatly influenced the traditional Shinto arts, and Buddhist painting became fashionable among wealthy Japanese. The Kamakura period saw a flowering of Japanese Buddhist sculpture, whose origins are in the works of Heian period sculptor Jōchō. The Amida sect of Buddhism provided the basis for many popular artworks. Buddhist art became popular among the masses via scroll paintings, paintings used in worship and paintings of Buddhas, saint’s lives, hells and other religious themes. Under the Zen sect of Buddhism, portraiture of priests such as Bodhidharma became popular as well as scroll calligraphy and sumi-e brush painting.
Asuka and Nara periods
Buddhist art was introduced to Japan along with the Buddhist religion in the mid-sixth century, when according to tradition, Seong of Baekje sent a statue of the Buddha along with some sutras to the Emperor Kinmei. The Asuka period (552–645) saw the gradual growth of Chinese and Korean artistic and religious influences on Japanese culture. Chinese influence grew in the Nara Period (645–784) as the Japanese court began to model itself in a Chinese form, and Buddhism continued to spread throughout Japan, while integrating within it the Japanese religion of Shinto.
The sculpture of this period shows, as do most all subsequent sculpture, the influence of continental art. Tori Busshi a descendant of a Chinese immigrant followed the style of Northern Wei sculpture and established what has come to be known as the Tori school of sculpture. Notable examples of Tori works are the Sakyamuni Triad (or Shaka triad) which are the main icons of the Golden Hall of Hōryū-ji temple and the kannon Boddhisatva of Yumedono Hall of the same temple, also known as Guze Kannon. First built in the early 7th century as the private temple of Crown Prince Shōtoku, Hōryū-ji consists of 41 independent buildings. The most important ones, the main worship hall, or Kondō (Golden Hall), and Gojū-no-tō (Five-story Pagoda), stand in the center of an open area surrounded by a roofed cloister. Inside the Kondō, on a large rectangular platform, are some of the most important sculptures of the period including the Sakyamuni triad.
In the Sakyamuni Triad, Sakyamuni, the center Buddha, is attended by two other figures, Bhaisajyaguru to its right and Amitābha to its left. The statues are dated to 623. The style of the statue is characterized by the two-dimensionality of the figure and the repetitive pattern-like depictions of the cloth the triad sits upon.
The Early Nara period saw a move towards more naturalistic styles emerging from China. The Triad of Yakushi shows the healing Buddha which presides over the Eastern Pure Land attended by two Bodhisattvas Nikko and Gakko. The triad, housed in the Yakushiji temple (7th century in Nara), reveals Chinese and central Asian influences in its anatomical definition, naturalism and realistic drapery.
This sculpture also demonstrates the roots of Japanese art in the 1st-3rd century CE Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, characterized by flowing dress patterns and realistic rendering, on which Chinese and Korean artistic traits were superimposed. After the Chinese Northern Wei buddhist art had infiltrated a Korean peninsula, Buddhist icons was brought Japan by Korean immigrants. Particularly, the semi-seated Maitreya form was adapted into a highly developed Ancient Greek art style which was transmitted to Japan as evidenced by the Kōryū-ji Miroku Bosatsu and the Chūgū-ji Siddhartha statues. The Three Kingdoms of Korea, and particularly Baekje, were instrumental as active agents in the introduction and formation of a Buddhist tradition in Japan in 538 or 552. They illustrate the terminal point of the Silk Road transmission of art during the first few centuries of our era. Other examples can be found in the development of the iconography of the Japanese Fūjin Wind God, the Niō guardians, and the near-Classical floral patterns in temple decorations.
Temple building in the 8th century was focused around the Tōdai-ji in Nara. Constructed as the headquarters for a network of temples in each of the provinces, the Tōdaiji is the most ambitious religious complex erected in the early centuries of Buddhist worship in Japan. Appropriately, the 16.2 m (53 ft) Buddha (completed 752) enshrined in the main Buddha hall, or Daibutsuden, is a Rushana Buddha, the figure that represents the essence of Buddhahood, just as the Tōdaiji represented the center for Imperially sponsored Buddhism and its dissemination throughout Japan. Only a few fragments of the original statue survive, and the present hall and central Buddha are reconstructions from the Edo period.
Under the Ritsuryō system of government in the Nara period, Buddhism was heavily regulated by the state through the Sōgō (僧綱, Office of Priestly Affairs). During this time, Tōdai-ji served as the central administrative temple for the provincial temples for the six Buddhist schools in Japan at the time.
The Shakyamuni Daibutsu Bronze (4.8 metres) is the oldest known sculpture of Buddha in Japan cast by Tori Busshi in 609.
Kannon(Avalokitesvara) or Guze Kannon, wood plated with gold, crown: bronze openwork gilt. Early CE 7th century, Horyu-ji, Nara.
Bodhisattva, Asuka period, 7th century. Tokyo National Museum.
Tile with seated Buddha
7th century Nara temple roof tile showing Greco-Buddhist influence.
Triad of Yakushi at Yakushi-ji, Nara. Originally built in Fujiwara-kyō in 680, transported to Nara in 718.
Golden Hall of Hōryū-ji
Five-storied Pagoda of Hōryū-ji
Golden Hall of Tōshōdai-ji in Nara
Lecture Hall of Tōshōdai-ji in Nara
Yakushi-ji’s East Pagoda, Nara.
Great Buddha hall of Tōdai-ji in Nara
Great Buddha of Tōdai-ji in Nara
Heian period (794–1185)
In 784, the Emperor Kanmu threatened by the growing secular power of the Buddhist institutions in Nara moved the capital to Heian-kyō (Kyōto), which remained the imperial capital for the next 1,000 years. The term Heian period refers to the years between 794 and 1185, when the Kamakura shogunate was established at the end of the Genpei War. The period is further divided into the early Heian and the late Heian, or Fujiwara era, the pivotal date being 894, the year imperial embassies to China were officially discontinued.
Buddhism began to spread throughout Japan during the Heian period, primarily through two major esoteric sects, Tendai and Shingon. Tendai originated in China and is based on the Lotus Sutra, one of the most important sutras of Mahayana Buddhism; Saichō was key to its transmission to Japan. Shingon (true word school) is an indigenous sect with close affiliations to Chinese influenced Buddhist thought founded by Kūkai (best known by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi, 774–835) who traveled to China and studied Indian and Chinese Buddhism, as well as Chinese calligraphy and poetry. Emperor Kanmu himself was a notable patron of the Tendai sect, which rose to great power over the ensuing centuries. Kūkai greatly impressed the emperors who succeeded Emperor Kanmu, and also generations of Japanese, not only with his holiness but also with his poetry, calligraphy, painting, and sculpture. Shingon Buddhist practice is based on various rituals, including the chanting of mantras, puja, hand gestures (mudras) and meditation through visualization of mandalas. The central role of ritual in Japanese esoteric Buddhism led to a flourishing of the religious arts in the Heian period. These religious paintings, mandalas and statues provided practitioners with a way to contemplate on Buddhist deities and concepts. A famous example of Shingon Mandala is the Taizokai (Womb World) mandala. Part of the Mandala of the Two Realms, the womb world is composed of 12 zones representing different dimensions of Buddha nature. In the center sits the Vairocana Buddha within the lotus of compassion surrounded by attendant Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Shingon sect believed that all beings have an innate Buddha nature.
The temples erected for the Shingon sect such as that at Mt. Kōya were built in the Kii mountains, far away from the Court and the laity in the capital. The irregular topography of these sites forced Japanese architects to rethink the problems of temple construction, and in so doing to choose more indigenous elements of design. Cypress-bark roofs replaced those of ceramic tile, wood planks were used instead of earthen floors, and a separate worship area for the laity was added in front of the main sanctuary. The temple that best reflects the spirit of early Heian Shingon temples is the Murō-ji (early 9th century), set deep in a stand of cypress trees on a mountain southeast of Nara.
In the Fujiwara period, Pure Land Buddhism, which offered easy salvation through belief in Amida (the Buddha of the Western Paradise), became popular. This period is named after the Fujiwara clan, then the most powerful in the country, who ruled as regents for the Emperor, becoming, in effect, civil dictators. Concurrently, the Kyoto nobility developed a society devoted to elegant aesthetic pursuits. The Hō-ō-dō (Phoenix Hall, completed 1053) of the Byōdō-in, a temple in Uji to the southeast of Kyoto, is the exemplar of Fujiwara Amida halls. It consists of a main rectangular structure flanked by two L-shaped wing corridors and a tail corridor, set at the edge of a large artificial pond. Inside, a single golden image of Amida (c. 1053) is installed on a high platform. The Amida sculpture was executed by Jōchō, who popularized the Chinese technique of creating a work from several smaller pieces of sculpted wood (yosegi). Although it limited the amount of surface detail the artist could carve into each piece, the method forced the sculptor to convey his intended message within these limits. This resulted in more refined and ephemeral-looking pieces. More importantly, it allowed several assistants to work on the sculpture at once, greatly speeding the process. Jōchō, as the master, did the finishing work. The technique also led to systematized proportions of body parts and simple surface details, as these sped the creation of the constituent parts and the formation of the finished piece.
Art historians often cite this new canon of proportions as evidence of Jōchō’s genius. He based the measurements on a unit equal to the distance between the sculpted figure’s chin and hairline. The distance between each knee is equal to the distance from the bottoms of the legs to the hair. The widely spaced and level knees thus form the base of a triangular design, conveying a feeling of stability and peace. The effect is further accentuated by the contrast of other elements in the design, particularly the figures’ halos. These are intricately detailed, featuring dancing tennin, clouds, and flames. Jōchō’s sculptures’ expressions convey compassion and elegance, and the detailed and precise carving of the facial features projects a certain kindness.
The workshop method of dividing work among several craftsmen caught on, as did Jōchō’s style. His school was imitated by sculptors across Japan for the over next 150 years, as Japanese sculpture devolved into a conformist orthodoxy before being reinvented in the Kamakura period.
With the rising importance of Pure Land sects of Japanese Buddhism in the tenth century, new image-types were developed to satisfy the devotional needs of these sects. These include Raigozu (来迎図), which depict Amida Buddha along with attendant Bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi arriving to welcome the souls of the faithful departed to Amida’s Western Paradise. A noted early example dating from 1053 are painted on the interior of the Phoenix Hall of the Byōdō-in, a temple in Uji, Kyoto. This is also considered an early example of so-called Yamato-e (大和絵), or “Japanese-style painting”, insofar as it includes landscape elements such as soft rolling hills that seem to reflect something of the actual appearance of the landscape of western Japan. Stylistically, however, this type of painting continues to be informed by Tang Dynasty Chinese “blue and green style” landscape painting traditions. “Yamato-e” is an imprecise term that continues to be debated among historians of Japanese art.
Oagida of Daigo-ji in Kyoto. It was built in 951.
Kongokai (vajra) mandala – Shingon tantric buddhist school
Fugen enmei, the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue who Prolongs Life, 12th century. Ink, color, gold, and silver on silk.
Mandarado of Taima-dera in Katsuragi. It was built in 1161.
Pagoda of Ichijō-ji. It was built in 1171.
Buddha’s Nirvana. Hanging scroll, 267.6 cmx 271.2 cm. Color on silk. Located at Kongōbu-ji, Mt. Kōya.
Five storied pagoda at Murō-ji. It was built in 800.
Shaka rising from the Gold Coffin. Late Heian, hanging scroll.
Wall Painting on East door of Byōdō-in, Detail
Wall Painting on South door of Byōdō-in
Achala Vidyaraja (Wisdom King), 1100–1185.
Amitabha Buddha. Late Heian,Color on silk Yushihachimanko Juhachika-in Temple. Central of three hanging scrolls.
Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Japan suffered a series of civil wars in the late 12th century between several rival families, which eventually led to the rise of the feudalistic Kamakura shogunate, so named because the victorious family, the Minamoto clan, established their political base in Kamakura. The Emperor remained in Kyoto as a figurehead but the actual political power rested with the shōgun. The Kamakura period saw the reestablishment of cultural ties with China, as well as the growth of Zen Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism as the two major branches of Japanese Buddhism.
These new Kamakura patrons also favored a more realistic and naturalistic art which is exemplified by the sculpture of the Kei school. The Kei school developed out of that led by the busshi (Buddhist sculptor) Jōchō, his successor Kakujō, and Kakujō’s son Raijō, the leading sculptors of the preceding generations. These artists are sometimes said to have founded the Kei school; however, the school would not come into its own, and become associated with the name “Kei” until Raijō was succeeded by Kōkei and Unkei around the year 1200.
Among sculptors of the Kei school, Unkei is the most famous and considered to be the most accomplished sculptor of the period. Among his works, a pair of large Nio (or Kongō Rikishi) in Tōdai-ji depict muscular guardians in a dramatic contrapposto stance. Unkei’s sculptures of Indian priests Mujaku and Seshin in Kōfuku-ji demonstrate a new portrait-like realism. Both statues sport priestly vestments that frame their bodies realistically. They stand life-size and alone and are fully sculpted in the round as if intended to be viewed from any angle. Mujaku is depicted as a thin man manipulating some sort of holy, cloth-wrapped object. He appears reserved and reflective. Seshin, in contrast, is depicted in mid conversation, gesturing and speaking, an extroverted counterweight to the solemn Mujaku. The men are shown as specific people, not simply members of a stock type.
Unkei had six sculptor sons and their work is also imbued with the new humanism. Tankei, the eldest son and a brilliant sculptor became the head of the studio. Kōshō, the 4th son produced a remarkable sculpture of the 10th-century Japanese Buddhist teacher Kuya (903–972). Kaikei was a collaborator of Unkei and worked with him on the Nio statues in 1203. He worked with priest Chogen (1121–1206): the director of Tōdai-ji reconstruction project. Many of his figures are more idealized than Unkei and his sons, and are characterized by a beautifully finished surface, richly decorated with pigments and gold. His works have survived more than 40, many of which are signed by himself.
Much of the cities of Nara and Kyoto were destroyed in the Genpei War of 1180–1185. The Kei school was granted the opportunity to restore Nara’s greatest temples, the Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji, replacing their Buddhist sculptures. The leading figure in this effort was Shunjobo Chogen (1121–1206), who was known to have made three trips to China to study sculpture. The Tōdai-ji restoration project lasted several generations, from roughly 1180 to 1212, and drew extensively on Tang and Song Chinese styles, introducing new stylistic elements while remaining true to tradition.
Some of the most popular paintings of the Kamakura period depict an ascending Amida Buddha. The main tenet of Pure Land Buddhism is that chanting the name of Amida could lead to a reincarnation in the pure land. Thus, scrolls of Amida would be hung in the room of the dying who would be saved by chanting the Amida mantra.
In the Kamakura period new Buddhists sects, such as Kegon and Nichiren emerged and grew in popularity. These sects produced several distinct genres of painting, including the Suijako paintings, which tried to reconcile the two main Japanese faiths by depicting Shinto deities as early manifestations of Buddha. Works like the Kegon Engi Emaki, a book illustrated to help people understand complicated Chinese character, became more popular with ordinary people. Emakimono, or long illustrated hand scrolls, also served to illustrate the life of the Buddha and the history of key Buddhist leaders.
Jōdo-dō of Jōdo-ji in Ono. It was built in 1194.
Danjogaran Fudodo in Mt. Kōya. It was built in 1197.
Nio guardian in Tōdai-ji, by Unkei
Mujaku(Asanga) in Kōfuku-ji, by Unkei
Portrait of monk Kūya (CE 930-972), total about cm height, wood, colored, CE13th century by Kosho
Statue with polychrome, gold, and crystal. This statue depicts Zocho-ten, Guardian (shitenno) of the South.
Statue of Raijin in Sanjūsangen-dō, Kyoto, Japan. About 1m tall, dated to 13th century
Amida coming over the Mountain from the Kyoto National Museum dated to the 13th century. Hanging scroll, 120.6 cm x 80.3 cm. Color on silk.
Kamakura Daibutsu (Amida Buddha) at Kōtoku-in.
Monju crossing the sea. Hanging scroll, 143.0 cm × 106.4 cm. Color on silk. Located at Daigo-ji, Kyoto.
The illustrated biography of priest Hōnen. Part of the handscroll (Emakimono), illustrated biographies of famous priests.
Illustrated Biography of the Priest Ippen, Volume 7, handscroll detail. Color on silk. Size of the full scroll: 37.8 cm x 802.0 cm.
Muromachi period (1333–1573)
During the Muromachi period, also called the Ashikaga period, a profound change took place in Japanese culture. The Ashikaga clan took control of the shogunate and moved its headquarters back to Kyoto, to the Muromachi district of the city. With the return of government to the capital, the popularizing trends of the Kamakura period came to an end, and cultural expression took on a more aristocratic, elitist character. During the Muromachi Period, Zen Buddhism rose to prominence especially among the elite Samurai class, who embraced the Zen values of personal discipline, concentration and self-development.
The development of the great Zen monasteries in Kamakura and Kyoto had a major impact on the visual arts. Because of secular ventures and trading missions to China organized by Zen temples, many Chinese paintings and objects of art were imported into Japan and profoundly influenced Japanese artists working for Zen temples and the shogunate. Not only did these imports change the subject matter of painting, but they also modified the use of color; the bright colors of Yamato-e yielded to the monochromes of painting in the Chinese manner of Sui-boku-ga (水墨画) or sumi-e (墨絵), this style mainly used only black ink — the same as used in East Asian calligraphy.
The foremost painter of the new Sumi-e style was Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506), a Rinzai priest who traveled to China in 1468–69 and studied contemporary Ming painting. Some of his most dramatic works are in the Chinese splashed-ink (Haboku) style. Upon returning to Japan, Sesshū built himself a studio and established a large following, painters that are now referred to as the Unkoku-rin school or “School of Sesshū”. To make one of the calligraphic and highly stylized Haboku paintings, the painter would visualize the image and then made swift broad strokes into the paper resulting in a splashed and abstract composition, all done with meditative concentration. This impressionistic style of painting was supposed to capture the true nature of the subject. The Sumi-e style was highly influenced by calligraphy, using the same tools and style as well as its zen philosophy. To paint in this style the practitioner had to clear his mind and apply the brush strokes without too much thinking, termed mushin (無心 “no mind state”) by the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro. The concept of mushin is central to many Japanese arts including the art of the sword, archery and the tea ceremony.
By the end of the 14th century, monochrome landscape paintings (sansuiga) had found patronage by the ruling Ashikaga family and was the preferred genre among Zen painters, gradually evolving from its Chinese roots to a more Japanese style. Another important painter in this period is Tenshō Shūbun, a monk at the Kyoto temple of Shōkoku-ji who traveled to Korea and studied under Chinese painters. He returned to Japan in 1404 and settled in Kyoto, then the capital city. He became director of the court painting bureau, established by Ashikaga shoguns, who were influential art patrons. Shūbun’s most well-known landscape painting, designated as a National Treasure in Japan, is Reading in a Bamboo Grove, now kept in the Tokyo National Museum.
Another style which developed in the Muromachi period is Shigajiku (詩画軸). This is usually a painting accompanied by poetry and has its roots in China, where painting and poetry were seen as inherently connected. This style grew out of literary circles, an artist would usually be given a subject to paint and the poets would write accompanying verses to be written above the work. A famous example is the scroll “Catching a Catfish with a Gourd” (Hyōnen-zu 瓢鮎図) located at Taizō-in, Myōshin-ji, Kyoto. Created by the priest-painter Josetsu (c. 1386 – c. 1428), it includes 31 verses of many Zen priests inscribed above the painting. In the foreground of the painting a man is depicted on the bank of a stream holding a small gourd and looking at a large slithery catfish. Mist fills the middle ground, and the background, mountains appear to be far in the distance. The painting was commissioned by the 4th Shogun of the Muromachi Period, Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1386-1428) and was based on the nonsensical riddle “How do you catch a catfish with a gourd?”. An example of one of the Koans illustrates the style of the poetry inscribed above the painting.
Poised! With the Gourd
He tries to pin that slippery fish.
Some oil on the gourd
Would add zest to the chase.
(Shusu  Trans. Matsushita, 1974)
The painting and accompanying poems capture both the playfulness and the perplexing nature of Zen buddhist kōans which was supposed to aid the Zen practitioner in his meditation and was a central practice of the Rinzai school.
In the late Muromachi period, ink painting had migrated out of the Zen monasteries into the art world in general, as artists from the Kano school and the Ami school adopted the style and themes, but introducing a more plastic and decorative effect that would continue into modern times.
Pagoda of Myōō-in in Fukuyama. It was built in 1348.
Main Hall of Kakurin-ji in Kakogawa. It was built in 1397.
The Silver Pavilion of Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto. It was built in 1489 (Art of Wabi-sabi, Higashiyama Bunka).
Garden of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto (Art of Miyabi, Kitayama Bunka).
Ryōan-ji dry garden in Kyoto.
Garden of Saihō-ji in Kyoto.
Garden of Tenryū-ji in Kyoto.
Pagoda of Negoro-ji in Iwade, Wakayama. It was built in 1547.
Autumn and Winter Landscapes by Sesshū.
Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma (1496) by Sesshū
Landscape by Shubun, Hanging scroll, 108 cm x 32.7 cm. Ink and light color on paper, 1445. Located in the Nara National Museum.
Getting Hold of the Ox, one of the Ten Oxherding pictures by Shubun, 15th century copy of lost 12th century original.
Kano Motonobu, White-robed Kannon, c. first half of the 16th century. Hanging scroll. Ink, color and gold on silk. 157.2 x 76.4 cm.
Azuchi–Momoyama period (1573–1603)
This period saw the rise of the Kanō school (狩野派 Kanō-ha?) which is one of the most famous schools of Japanese painting. The Kanō school of painting was the dominant style of painting until the Meiji period. It was founded by Kanō Masanobu (1434–1530), a contemporary of Sesshū and student of Shūbun who became an official painter in the Shogun’s court. The artists who followed him including his son improved upon his style and methods. His son, Kanō Motonobu (1476–1559) established the Kano style as the main Japanese painting school during the Muromachi period.
In sharp contrast to the previous Muromachi period, the Azuchi Momoyama period was characterized by a grandiose polychrome style, with extensive use of gold and silver foil, and by works on a very large scale. Kanō school painters were patronized by Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and their followers. Kanō Eitoku developed a formula for the creation of monumental landscapes on the sliding doors enclosing a room. These huge screens and wall paintings were commissioned to decorate the castles and palaces of the military nobility. This status continued into the subsequent Edo period, as the Tokugawa bakufu continued to promote the works of the Kanō school as the officially sanctioned art for the shōgun, daimyōs, and Imperial court. The rise of the Kanō school saw a beginning of a move away from buddhist themes, as Kano school patrons commissioned paintings of a more secular nature to decorate their palaces.
However some painters in this period continued to look back to the Buddhist priest-painters which had initially influenced the Kano school. One of these painters was Hasegawa Tōhaku, who was influenced by the monochrome ink paintings of the Muromachi painter Sesshū and developed his own style of Sumi-e which looked back to the minimalism of its predecessors. Tōhaku was in fact so much enamored with the techniques of Sesshū Tōyō that he attempted to claim rights as his fifth successor, though he lost in a court battle to Unkoku Togan. Still, the influence of Sesshū is evident in many of Tōhaku’s mid to late works, such as his famous Shōrin-zu byōbu (松林図 屏風) Pine Trees screen, which were declared a national treasure of Japan are argued to be the first paintings of their scale to depict only pine trees as subject matter.
The school founded by Hasegawa Tōhaku is known today as the Hasegawa school. This school was small, consisting mostly of Tōhaku and his sons. However small, its members conserved Tōhaku’s quiet and reserved aesthetic, which many attribute to the influence of Sesshū as well as his contemporary and friend, Sen no Rikyū. It is suspected that these simple aesthetics protest the usage of intimidation and wealth rampant in the Kanō school.
Pagoda of Shoman-in in Osaka. It was rebuilt in 1597.
Golden Hall of Daigo-ji in Kyoto. It was rebuilt in 1600.
Kaizando and Nyoirindo of Daigo-ji in Kyoto. They were rebuilt in 1606.
Pagoda of Kirihata-ji in Awa. It was built in 1607.
Under the Zen sect of Buddhism, which became very popular in Japan in the 14th and 15th centuries, portraits of Zen priests were often produced. Zen was a sect of Buddhism which promoted simplicity and less involved in worship, so religious paintings were not needed for this reason. Instead, Zen priests often painted images of teachers and Zen masters. Unlike in the earlier Heian period, where it had been considered “rude in Heian times to copy a person’s likeness”[attribution needed] (Stanley-Baker 2000, 115), the Zen portraits were close-up portraits showing facial features and details. A portrait of Zen master Muso Kokushi painted by his student Muto Shui, shows a detailed portrait of the face, with the whole picture being only a head and shoulders portrait. This is unlike earlier Japanese painting which would depict people as much smaller figures. Zen priests also painted landscapes, such as the suiboku-ga, or water and black ink painting, which was inspired by Zen doctrine.
Buddhism exerted tremendous influence on Japanese art in a variety of ways and through many periods of Japanese history. Buddhist temples with their halls and five-story towers were built all over Japan, and huge sculptures of Buddha were made for these temples.
Source from Wikipedia