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Japanese Buddhism, Photo Dictionary of Japan's Shinto and Buddhist DivinitiesRETURN TO TOP PAGE of Japanese Buddhist Statuary A to Z Photo Library & Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Shinto Kami, Creatures, and DemonsCopyright and Usage PoliciesJump to Sister Store Selling Handcrafted Buddha Statues from China, Japan, and Asia
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QUICK START
Home: What's New
Buddha's Teachings
History & Timeline
Historical Buddha
Student's Guide
Teacher's Guide

DEITY GUIDES
Who's Who
Buddha
Bodhisattva
Myo-o
Shinto Kami
Shugendo
Stars & Planets
Tenbu (Deva)

OTHER GUIDES
About Site Author
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Buddhism in Japan
Busshi Glossary
Carving Techniques
Cycle of Suffering
Drapery/Robe Guide
Mandala Guide
Mudra Guide
Objects Guide
Pilgrimage Guide
Shinto Guide
Statues by Artist
Statues by Era
Symbols Guide
Terminology

Buddhist-Artwork.com, our sister site, offers online sales of hand-carved wood Buddha statues.
Buddhist-Artwork.com, our sister site, offers online sales of hand-carved wood Buddha statues.

A TO Z INDEX
3 Element Stele
3 Monkeys
4 Bosatsu
4 Celestial Emblems
4 Heavenly Kings
5 (Number Five)
5 Elements
5 Tathagata
5 Tier Pagoda
5 Wisdom Kings
6 Jizo
6 Kannon
6 Realms
6 Nara Schools
7 Lucky Gods
7 Nara Temples
8 Legions
8 Zodiac Patrons
10 Kings of Hell
12 Devas
12 Generals
12 Zodiac Animals
13 Butsu (Funerals)
28 Legions
28 Constellations
30 Buddha of Month
30 Kami of Month
33 Kannon
About the Author
Agyo
Aizen
Amano Jyaku
Amida Nyorai
Apsaras
Arakan (Rakan)
Arhat (Rakan)
Ashuku Nyorai
Asuka Era Art Tour
Asura (Ashura)
Baku (Eats Dreams)
Bamboo
Benzaiten (Benten)
Bibliography
Big Buddha
Birushana Nyorai
Bishamon-ten
Bodhisattva
Bonbori Artwork
Bosatsu Group
Bosatsu of Mercy
Bosatsu on Clouds
Buddha (Historical)
Buddha Group
Buddha Statues
Busshi (Sculptors)
Calligraphy
Celestial Emblems
Celestial Maidens
Children Patrons
Classifying
Color Red
Confucius
Contact Us
Daibutsu
Daijizaiten
Daikokuten
Dainichi Nyorai
Daruma (Zen)
Datsueba (Hell Hag)
Deva (Tenbu)
Donations
Dosojin
Dragon
Drapery (Robes)
Early Buddhism Japan
Ebisu
Eight Legions
En no Gyoja
Estores
Family Tree
Footprints of Buddha
Fox (Inari)
Fudo (Fudou) Myoo
Fugen Bosatsu
Fujin (Wind God)
Fukurokuju
Gakko & Nikko
Gardens
Gigeiten
Godai Nyorai
Goddess of Mercy
Goddesses
Gongen
Gravestones
Hachi Bushu
Hachiman
Hands (Mudra)
Hell (10 Judges)
Hell Hag (Datsueba)
Hell Scrolls
Henge
Hikyu (Lion Beast)
Holy Mountains
Ho-o (Phoenix)
Hotei
Idaten
Inari (Fox)
Ishanaten
Ishidoro (Ishidourou)
Jikokuten
Jizo Bosatsu
Jocho Busshi
Juni Shi
Juni Shinsho
Juni Ten
Junrei (Pilgrimage)
Jurojin
Juuzenji
Jyaki or Tentoki
Kaikei Busshi
Kamakura Buddhism
Kankiten
Kannon Bosatsu
Kappa
Kariteimo (Kishibojin)
Karura
Karyoubinga
Kendatsuba
Kichijouten
Kitchen Gods
Kishibojin (Kariteimo)
Kitsune (Oinari)
Kokuzo Bosatsu
Koujin (Kojin)
Komokuten
Korean Buddhism
Koushin
Lanterns (Stone)
Links
Making Statues
Mandara (Mandala)
Maneki Neko
Marishiten (Marici)
Miroku Bosatsu
Monju Bosatsu
Monkeys
Moon Lodges
Mother Goddess
Mudra (Hands)
Myoken (Pole Star)
Myo-o
Nara Era Art Tour
Newsletter Sign Up
Nijuhachi Bushu
Nikko & Gakko
Ninpinin
Nio Protectors
Nyorai Group
Objects & Symbols
Onigawara
Phoenix (Ho-o)
Pilgrimage Guide
Pottery
Protective Stones
Raigo Triad
Raijin (Thunder God)
Rakan (Arhat)
Red Clothing
Reincarnation
Robes (Drapery)
Rock Gardens
Sanbo Kojin
Sanno Gongen
Sarutahiko
Sculptors (Busshi)
Seishi Bosatsu
Sendan Kendatsuba
Seven Lucky Gods
Shachi, Shachihoko
Shaka Nyorai
Shape Shifters
Shichifukujin
Shijin (Shishin)
Shinra Myoujin
Shinto Clergy
Shinto Concepts
Shinto Kami
Shinto Main Menu
Shinto Sects
Shinto Shrines
Shishi (Lion)
Shitenno
Shoki
Shomen Kongo
Shotoku Taishi
Shrines
Shugendo
Siddhartha
Six States
Star Deities
Stone Gardens
Stone Graves
Stone Lanterns
Stones (Top Menu)
Suijin (Water Kami)
Symbols & Objects
Tamonten
Taishakuten
Tanuki
Temples
Temple Lodging
Tenbu Group
Tengu
Tennin & Tennyo
Tentoki or Jyaki
Terminology
Tibetan Carpets
Tibet Photos
Tibetan Tanka
Transmigration
Ungyo
Unkei Busshi
Videos on Buddhism
Water Basin
Weapons
Wheel of Life
Yakushi Nyorai
Yasha (Yaksha)
Zao Gongen
Zen (Daruma)
Zen Art Tour
Zodiac Calendar
Zochoten

 


 
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OVERVIEW:
History & Timeline of Buddhism’s Spread

Before Reaching Japan
 Overview you are here | Hinduism | Theravada | Mahayana | Vajrayana | Early Rifts | Comparing Schools

After Arriving in Japan
Buddhism Arrives Japan | Six Schools of Nara | Guide to Buddhism in Japan
Korean Influence | Confucianism in Japan | Taoism in Japan | Shintoism in Japan

THREE SCHOOLS OF BUDDHISM. Introduced in India around 500 BC by Gautama, Buddhism swept quickly (some 1000 years) across Asia, splitting into three main schools (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana) as it evolved. In India, its birthplace, Buddhism died out around 1200 AD, succumbing to Muslim invasions and resurgent Hinduism. But by then it was flourishing in Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan -- it came last to Japan, crossing the sea around 520 - 550 AD. Although the Japanese court was quick to adopt Mahayana Buddhism, the teachings of the Theravada and the Vajrayana (Tantric or Esoteric) schools did not go unnoticed or unpracticed. Sects from all three schools are still active in Japan today, but the dominant form is clearly Mahayana. This is especially true when talking about Buddhist sculpture and art. Many of Japan’s Buddhist treasures still survive and are available for firsthand inspection at temples in Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura, and elsewhere. In large part, this artistic legacy tells the story of Mahayana Buddhism. Also, unlike the rigid atheism of Theravada Buddhism (which reveres the Historical Buddha but ignores all other deities), the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools brought with them a large number of Hindu deities (see TENBU) who were adopted into Japan’s Buddhist pantheon. Buddhism in Japan subsequently developed along an extremely syncretic path, mixing together Hindu, Buddhist, and Shintō (kami cult) elements along with influences from Taoism, Confucianism, yin yang theories, zodiac cosmology, star worship, mountain asceticism, shamanism, nature cults, and animism.

AXIAL AGE. Buddhism emerged in the so-called Axial Age (from 800 BC to 200 BC), when the religious foundations of much of the world appeared simultaneously yet independently, including Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Platoism, and other major faith systems. In China, Buddha’s contemporaries were Confucius and Lao-tzu (the founder and “old boy” of Chinese Taoism), and slightly later in the West comes Plato (approx. 427 - 347 BC).

Map showing spread of Theravada (Hinayana) and Mahayana Buddhism
Map courtesy of Buddhanet

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Buddhism as practiced today is still divided into these three schools -- (1) Theravada, meaning School of the Elders, but pejoratively known as Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle; (2) Mahayana, meaning Greater Vehicle; and (3) Vajrayana, meaning Diamond Vehicle; also known as Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism. “Yana” is the Sanskrit term for vehicle. The bewildering number of sects are categorized into one of the three schools.

  • Theravada (Hinayana)
    Found mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Often known as the Southern Traditions of Buddhism.
     
  • Mahayana
    Found mainly in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Often known as the Northern Traditions of Buddhism.
     
  • Vajrayana (Esoteric or Tantric Buddhism)
    Practiced mainly in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia, but in Japan has a strong hold with the Shingon 真言, Tendai 天台, and Shugendō 修験道 sects. In Japan, Esoteric Buddhism is known as Mikkyō (Mikkyo) 密教). Along with Mahayana Buddhism, the Vajrayana traditions are often referred to as the Northern Traditions of Buddhism.

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OUTSIDE LINKS - TIMELINE OF BUDDHISM
Timeline #1 - Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
Overview of Art History in Japan

Timeline #2 - Pacific Asia Museum (need Flash)
Launch site, click “The Perfected One,”
then click the Timeline & Map button.

RELIGIOUS & PHILOSOPHICAL INFLUENCES ON JAPANESE BUDDHISM

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Copyright 1995 - 2013. Mark Schumacher. Email Mark.
All stories and photos, unless specified otherwise, by Schumacher.
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