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“Buddhism” as a Civilization of East Asia” is the central focus of Waseda University’s new str


Aerial photograph of the remains of Jeongnimsa Temple of Baekje that were talked about at the above lecture. It is clear that the positioning of the temples at Jeongnimsa Temple became the prototype for Hyakusaiji Temple, and the influence it had on Japan is starting to gain attention Source: Yomiuri


From 2010, with the Center for Research on “Buddhism” as a Civilization of East Asia as a new base, we have started a five year (planned) research initiative project called “East Asian historical differences and coexistence research as seen from “Buddhism” as a migrating civilization.” We have been able to strengthen basic cooperation. The setting up of a common theme passing horizontally through differing fields of study has been devised for the next step. That theme is “the propagation of Buddhist civilization in pre-modern East Asia.

Desire for commonality in East Asia

In 10 years, what has been brought to recognition again is the obscure concept of Asia. Regional boundaries are vague with wide areas overlapping with Middle Eastern Islamic regions. In Japan on the other hand, Asia often refers to the extremely narrow East Asian region. Things such as Asian history and Asian research clearly do not exist. In Japan, East Asian research centered on China has, up until now, occupied a central position in Asian studies under the name Oriental history. This being the case, while using existing East Asian research as a base, it is practical to devise a plan expanding East Asian research to include comparisons and relations with neighboring regions.

“After a discussion of over a year between the members, what we came up with was the commonality of the propagation of Buddhism. Buddhism began in India and was passed on to China and encompassed by the Chinese people and culture to become Chinese Buddhism. It was then in turn, starting with Japan and Korea, spread on to East Asian regions surrounding China. Researching how the propagation of Chinese Buddhism influenced each region’s society and culture is our theme this time.” (Professor Ohashi)

The project is split into three groups for research. (1) Intersections with social (common) order, (2) formations and various expressions, and (3) conjugation as a religion. (1) Intersections with social order project looks into how social (common) order was induced and wakened in East Asia by encounters with Buddhist civilization, (2) Expression project researches how forms of expression and arts and crafts developed with the migration of Buddhist civilization, and (3) conjugated religion project looks at what religions were created through encounters with Buddhist civilization (mergers with Taoism, occultism, the Way of Yin and Yang, Shintoism and popular customs and the practice of religious observances.)

“By understanding pre-modern East Asia, I think we can better see modern East Asia from a different angle. For example, in our country Buddhism and kanji were introduced together and kanji was used to write the Japanese language. There was no written language before the introduction of kanji, and for kanji to be used as the Japanese written language Manyo-gana was devised, katakana was created as an abbreviation of kanji, and hiragana made by breaking down the kanji.” (Professor Ohashi)

By following these new background interpretations, research reviewing the interpretations of existing research is also taking place. For example, at the back of the Shaka triad statue housed in the main hall of Horyuji Temple is an inscription carved in 623. It is said to have been written in the year following the death of Prince Shotoku in order to console his soul as a Buddhist saint but research is underway to reinvestigate the circumstances in what it was written and what meaning it holds.

Furthermore, an even more centripetal theme embracing the whole project is set every year, with activities such as symposiums and publications taking place. Under the 2010 theme of “Relationships Between Royal Authorities and Buddhism,” in December lecturers from overseas and other universities in Japan were invited to a symposium titled “Constructing Sovereign Rule and “Buddhist” Civilizations: With Japan at the Center”. A draft is being prepared based on the contents of the presentations to be published in book form some time in 2011.

“10 years ago I would never have thought we would have progressed to a stage of such systematic cooperation. Every now and then we are also cooperating with the modern Asia research group. In East Asia, this university has a strong sense of mission, as an international educational research base, of having to lead in Asian research. This research initiative has a feeling of capping off all we have done up to now.” (Professor Ohashi)

Humanities Asian research, from a different angle seen in the dynamic modern Asian research in the fields of politics, economics and sociology, will contribute to the realization of an East Asian community.

Excerpted from:  Daily Yomiuri article

Conducting concentrated humanities research of “Buddhism” as a civilization that swept through East Asia

Organization for University Research Initiatives Center for Research on “Buddhism” as a Civilization of East Asia

Related links:

For more information on Hyakusaiji Temple, see Hyakusaiji Temple Garden & Maples 

Jeongnimsa Temple Site in Buyeo

“The Jeongnimsaji is a site where a major temple, Jeongrimsa Temple, stood in the capital movement age of 538 to 660. When the excavation was executed, the writing of ‘8th year of Taepyeong, Mujin Jeongnimsa Temple Daejangdangcho’ was discovered in the piece of tile from the site of auditorium and it tells that it was the Jeongrim Temple in Goryeo Kingdom. The 8th year of Taepyeong corresponds to the year 1028, 19th ruling year of King Hyeonjong in Goryeo. Namely, it explains that a building was rebuilt on the auditorium of Baekje Kingdom in Goryeo and then it is estimated to have been named Daejangjeon Hall. The Jeongnimsa Temple has a central line, involving Jungmun (central gate), five story stone pagoda, Geumdang (gold-colored main building), auditorium, arranged in a straight line from the north to south. The Garam style of arrangement is made on the plane surrounding the Daejangjeon Hall with corridor. These kinds of Garam arrangement had an influence on the Garam style of Japanese temple in the 7th Century to become a fundamental of the Garam arrangement of Japanese temple in the ancient times. But, the special feature of Garam arrangement is that the shape of the corridor surrounding a center of Garam arrangement is similar to the trapezoid whose northern gap is wide, rather than square. The pond before temple revealed by the excavation investigation has been improved and a building for the protection of seated stone Buddha statue was newly constructed in 1933. The five-story pagoda (National Treasure No. 9) made in the age of Baekje and the seated stone Buddha statue (Treasure No. 108) made in Goryeo remain. The excavated relics involve various temple items such as decorative tiles of Baekje and Goryeo, ink slab, earthenware, soil Buddha statue, etc. This indicates the cultural state in that time and a representative remains in the age of Baekje. ”

Also regarding the cultural heritage at Jeongnimsa, the Buddha statue:

This is a stone Buddha statue left in the Jeongnimsa Temple site in Buyeo city. The Jeongnimsa Temple was first built in the mid sixth century about the time the capital was transferred to Buyeo.

It flourished until the downfall of the Baekje Dynasty, and then flourished again during the Goryeo Dynasty.

This stone Buddha statue shows the prosperity of the Goryeo Era. The head and the crown is not the original, but were remade and attached later.

The details of the body are hard to recognize because of severe damage and abrasion.

However, the narrow shoulders and left hand on the chest renders the image of a Buddha of Enlightenment that is holding the left index finger with the right hand in the Jigwonin position (the mudra symbolizing Buddha and the multitude are one).

The pedestal the Buddha is sitting on is an octagonal three-storied pedestal, and the top story looks like a blossomed lotus flower.

The middle story has large panel decorations carved onto each of the eight sides.

The bottom story is the shape of an upside down lotus flower with three panel decorations overlapping each other. The present location of this Buddha statue used to be the hall of the Jeongnimsa Temple during the Baekje Era.

The refined tiles found here leads us to believe that this Buddha statue was the principal image of the main hall used exclusively for the worship of it when it was reconstructed during the Goryeo Era.

See also related topic: Baekje Splendid Historic Heritage in Its Ancient City

The Jeongnimsa site has particular implications as prototypes for the early Japanese architecture and cities ….Stone PagodasThere are many stone pagoda remains preserved in Korea. The first stone pagodas were built in the middle of the 6th century after two centuries of building wooden pagodas. The Silla stone pagodas and those of Baekje origin are distinguishable due to the techniques used and the design. They differ in the material used and the tectonic form adopted. In Silla, granite was used and the design was taken from wooden pagodas. In Baekje, andesite alone or mixed with granite was used and the design following this was brick-style masonry. A pagoda is basically divided into three parts: its foundation, body and finial.

The five-story stone pagoda on the site of Jeongnimsa Temple

The five-story stone pagoda at Jeongnimsa Temple was built during the Baekje Period (18B.C. –A.D. 660) along with the stone pagoda on the site of Mireuksa Temple in Iksan-si City. Believed to date back to the early seventh century, it is one of the oldest and most exemplary of the many stone pagodas still existing today.

The five-story pagoda body stands on a single narrow, low pedestal. Pillar stones are fixed in the middle and on the corners of each side of the pedestal. There are pillars at each corner of the body on each story. The roof stones are thin, wide and raised at the ends of the eaves to make them look elegant. From all this, we can guess that this pagoda was built following the design of a wooden building – a main characteristic of this pagoda. The whole figure is very majestic and beautiful and it is particularly prized because it is one of the two remaining stone pagodas from Baekje Period. Source: Stupas or Pagodas article

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