Buddhist Wooden Sculptures in the Early Heian Period: From a Standpoint of Syncretisation of Shinto with Buddhism

Third Thursday Lectures
Thursday 16 Oct 2014 | 6 pm

Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Hostry

Large tree in Kagoshima prefecture, Japan

Large tree in Kagoshima prefecture, Japan

Sarai Mai
Senior Researcher, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

Every Third Thursday of the month, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures hosts a lecture on a topic related to the art and culture of Japan. Talks begin at 6pm (50-minute lecture followed by refreshments). Speakers are all specialists in their field and the talks are intended to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of Japanese history.

Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential. To book a seat email us at [email protected] or fax 01603 625011 up to two days before the lecture stating your name, number of seats required and a contact number. The lecture will be held at the Weston Room, Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4DH. The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Yakult and the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Charitable Trust.


About the Lecture

At this month’s lecture, Mai Sarai will introduce the little-known standing sculpture of Yakushi Nyorai, Bhaiṣajya-guru, at Jinkoin temple in the north district of Kyoto City. This sculpture is a very important part of the syncretic Shinto-Buddhist belief system. The lecture will begin with an overview of the Japanese Buddhist sculpture which is an example of early Heian period, or 9th century single-block construction sculpture. Dr Sarai will then discuss the background of the creation of the sculpture which can be considered to be a Buddhist sculpture made for the Shinto deity. At the beginning of the Heian period, the syncretic Shinto-Buddhist philosophy was spreading, incorporating the belief that the power of Buddha was required to enhance the power of Shinto deities.

About the Speaker

Sarai Mai is a senior researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo. She is an Art Historian specialising in the history of Japanese sculpture. Her previous research on Japanese temples and Buddhist sculpture was presented in several journal articles for The Journal of Art Studies. She studied at Graduate School of Letters at Kyoto University and gained her PhD in Art History in 2004. She will be based at the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich for two weeks to continue with the Project Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art.

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A monthly lecture series supported by




The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation