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Busshi of Japan. Sculptors who made Japan's Buddhist Statues.BUSSHI 仏師 OF JAPAN = SCULPTORS OF JAPAN
Who Made Japan’s Buddha Statues?
Sculptors, Schools & Workshops
in Japanese Buddhist Statuary

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BUSSHI OF JAPAN, A-TO-Z INDEX
Busshi 仏師 = Sculptor of Buddhist Statues. The term literally means "Buddhist Teacher." The treatment herein follows that of Japan’s Buddhist scholars and art historians. Please read this introduction page before getting started. It provides an overview of Japan’s main sculptors and sculpting styles, plus a few essential terms and concepts. This section of our site includes 14 pages, covers 100+ sculptors, features 100+ photos, and provides the web’s first-ever integrated guide to Japan’s sculptors of religious statuary.

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BUSSHI BY PERIOD

Use above era menu

BUSSHI BY SCHOOL

Chōha 朝派
En, Enpa 円派
In, Inpa 院派
Kei, Keiha 慶派
Nanto Busshi 南都仏師
Shukuin 宿院仏師
Takama Bussho 高間仏所
Takaya Bussho 高矢仏所
Tori, Toriha止利派
Tsubai Bussho 椿井仏所
Zen, Zenpa 善派

BUSSHI BY NAME

Choen 長円 (En)
Chokai 長快 (Kei)
Chosei 長勢 (En)
Choyu 朝祐
Edo Period Busshi
Eikai 栄快 (Kei)
Enku 円空 (Edo)
Ensei 円勢 (En)
Gengoro 源五朗 (S)
Genji 源次 (S)
Genshiro 源四朗 (S)
Genzaburo 源三郎 (S)
Gyoka 行快 (Kei)
Inchi 院智 (In)
Inchō 院朝 (In)
Injitsu 院実 (In)
Injo 院助 (In)
Inkaku 院覚 (In)
Inkei 院慶 (In)
Inken 院賢 (In)
Inko 院康 (In)
In’no 院嚢 (In)
Inpan 院範 (In)
Insho 院尚 (In)
Inson 院尊 (In)
In’un 院雲 (In)
Inyo 院誉 (In)
Jocho 定朝 (Patriarch)
Jokaku 定覚 (Kei)
Jokei 1 定慶 (Kei)
Jokei 2 定慶 (Kei)
Kaikei 快慶 (Kei)
Kakujo 覚助 (In, Kei)
Kankei 覚慶 (Kei, T)
Keishu 慶秀 (Kei, T)
Keishun 慶俊 (Kei)
Ken'en 賢円 (En)
Koben 康弁 (Kei)
Kocho 康朝 (Kei)
Koen 康円 (Kei)
Kojo 康助 (Kei)
Kokei 康慶 (Kei)
Kosei 康清 (Kei)
Kosei 康成 (Kei)
Kosho 康尚 (Patriarch)
Kosho 康勝 (Kei)
Koshun 康俊 (Kei)
Koun 康運 (Kei)
Koson 弘尊 (Kei, T)
Koyo 康誉 (Kei, T)
Koyu 幸有 (Kei)
Kuninaka 国中公麻呂
Kuratsukuri 鞍作止利
Kyoen 経円 (En)
Kyoto Busshi 京仏師
Modern Busshi
Mukoyoshi Y. 中村佳睦
Mokujiki 木食明満
Myoen 明円 (En)
Nara Busshi 奈良仏師
Nishimura K. 西村公朝
Raijo 頼助 (Kei)
Ryuen 隆円 (En)
Seicho 成朝 (Kei)
Shunkei 舜慶 (Kei, T)
Shunkei 春慶 (Kei, T)
Tankei 湛 慶 (Kei)
Tori Busshi 止利仏師
Unga 運賀 (Kei)
Unjo 運助 (Kei)
Unkei 運慶 (Kei)
Yamaguchi 山口大口費
Zen'en 善円 (Zen)
Zenkei 善慶 (Zen)
Zenshun 善春 (Zen)

Dainichi Nyorai by Unkei
Dainichi Nyorai by Unkei
spacerINTRODUCTION. Nearly all Japanese resources on Buddhist sculpture in Japan identify four or five main schools of statuary. By convention, each of Japan’s acclaimed sculptors and workshops are classified into one of these schools, and the same scheme is used at this site. Additionally, Japanese scholarship generally follows a well-defined chronological roadmap, with statuary of the Asuka and Hakuho periods said to reflect mostly Korean and Chinese influences, followed by the Nara and early Heian periods when Japan’s own distinctive style begins to emerge despite Japan’s strong fascination with China’s Tang-era culture and art. Next comes the late Heian era and Kamakura period when Japan’s own artistic genius flowers and Buddhist statuary in Japan rises to its climatic triumph. After this, the art of Buddhist sculpture falls into decay, overcome by political turmoil, the growing importance of secular art, the plummeting influence of institutionalized Buddhism during the Edo-period shogunate, contact with the Western world, and the rise of Shintoism to state religion in the modern era. There were minor periods of revival, to be sure, but the apex of Japanese Buddhist statuary occurred many centuries ago in the Kamakura period. That, at least, is the general consensus.

MAIN SCULPTORS & SCHOOLS
  1. Tori School (Asuka & Nara Periods). Influenced by the Buddhist art of China and Korea. Tori was the most acclaimed sculptor (Busshi 仏師) of his day, and his work came to epitomize the period.
     
  2. Enpa School (Heian Period). Refined and elegant statuary for the court and nobility in Kyoto. Influenced by art of Tang-era China and by Japan’s own budding artistic genius. The Enpa school sprang from the workshop of Jocho, the father of three schools of statuary. Based in Kyoto, Enpa artists were also known as the Kyoto Busshi.
     
  3. Inpa School (Heian Period). Refined and elegant statuary for the court and nobility in Kyoto. Influenced by art of Tang-era China and by Japan’s own budding artistic genius. The Inpa school sprang from the workshop of Jocho, the father of three schools of statuary. Based in Kyoto, Inpa artists were also known as the Kyoto Busshi.
     
  4. Keiha School (Kamakura Period). Passionate, powerful, and robust statuary that better suited the tastes of the new military classes, who scorned the perfumed embroidery of the court and aristocracy. Two sculptors in particular came to embody the new Kamakura style of dynamic and realistic statuary -- Unkei and Kaikei. The Kei school is also known as the Nara Busshi because their main workshop was located in Nara. Like the Enpa & Inpa, the Keiha school sprang from the workshop of Jocho.
     
  5. Zenpa School (Kamakura Period). An innovative branch of the Keiha School (#4 above).
     
  6. Minor Revival (Edo Period). In the Edo Period, two wandering artists of great modern fame revived a carving technique known as Natabori 鉈彫 (literally “hatchet carving”). They were the Buddhist priest Enku 円空 and the Zen priest Mokujiki Myoman 木食明満.
     
  7. Contemporay Artists (Modern Era).
     
  8. How are Buddha Statues Made? Please see Making Buddha Statues for 60+ techniques & materials used to make Buddhist statuary in Japan.

Lotus BudGLOSSARY & TERMINOLOGY
Below we present just a few details on the most crucial words related to sculptors, their schools, and their workshops. Extended definitions are presented in the Busshi Glossary (40+ entrees).

  1. Busshi 仏師. Sculptor of Buddhist statues. The term literally means “Buddhist Master” or “Buddhist Teacher.” The term first appeared in the early Asuka Period (+552-645).
     
  2. Bussho 仏所. Workshop for making Buddhist statues. The term refers to the independent workshops and temple-run workshops that appeared in the 9th century onward. They replaced the Zobussho 造仏所 (government-run workshops) of the prior Asuka and Nara eras, which were closed down when the capital transferred from Nara to Kyoto around +794. The Bussho system was discarded in the 19th century.
     
  3. Daibusshi 大仏師. The head master of a temple workshop or independent workshop making Buddhist statues. Typically a hereditary position, which prompted the creation of lineage charts or genealogy tables called Busshi Keizu 仏師系図. However, direct descendants, adopted sons, and apprentices were often included in these charts, making it difficult to distinguish between those with or without direct blood ties.
     
  4. Rank and Title. Starting around the 11th century, the Japanese imperial court began awarding Buddhist sculptors with ranks and titles formerly reserved only for Buddhist monks.
     
    • Hoin 法印 (Hōin). Highest rank given to Buddhist sculptors.
    • Hogen 法眼 (Hōgen). Second highest rank.
    • Hokkyo 法橋 (Hokkyō). Third highest rank.
       
  5. Kyoto Busshi 京都仏師. Kyoto-related Buddhist sculptors and workshops. Artists specifically associated with temples or independent workshops located in Kyoto. Such workshops prospered in the Heian Period when the capital was located in Kyoto. Two schools in particular were collectively known as the Kyoto Busshi -- the Enpa School 円派 and the Inpa School 院派.
     
  6. Nara Busshi 奈良仏師 or Nanto Busshi 南都仏師. Nara-related Buddhist sculptors. Artists specifically associated with temples or independent workshops located Nara. It also refers to the Keiha School, which dominated Buddhist statuary in the Kamakura era. Its main workshop was located at Kofukuji Temple 興福寺 (Kōfukuji) in Nara.

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RESOURCES

  • 11-Headed Kannon, Late Heian Period, Onsenji Temple, Courtesy Pocket Serai, Viewing Buddha StatuesspacerJAANUS. Japanese Architecture & Art Net Users System. Online database devoted to Japanese art history. Compiled by the late Dr. Mary Neighbour Parent, it covers both Buddhist and Shintō deities in great detail and contains over 8,000 entries.

  • Dr. Gabi Greve. See her page on Japanese Busshi. Gabi-san did most of the research and writing for the Edo Period through the Modern era. She is a regular site contributor, and maintains numerous informative web sites on topics from Haiku to Daruma. Many thanks Gabi-san !!!!
     
  • Heibonsha, Sculpture of the Kamakura Period. By Hisashi Mori, from the Heibonsha Survey of Japanese Art. Published jointly by Heibonsha (Tokyo) & John Weatherhill Inc. A book close to my heart, this publication devotes much time to the artists who created the sculptural treasures of the Kamakura era, including Unkei, Tankei, Kokei, Kaikei, and many more. Highly recommended. 1st Edition 1974. ISBN 0-8348-1017-4. Buy at Amazon.
     
  • Classic Buddhist Sculpture: The Tempyo Period. By author Jiro Sugiyama, translated by Samuel Crowell Morse. Published in 1982 by Kodansha International. 230 pages and 170 photos. English text devoted to Japan’s Asuka through Early Heian periods and the development of Buddhist sculpture during that time. ISBN-10: 0870115294. Buy at Amazon.
     
  • The Great Age of Japanese Buddhist Sculpture, AD 600-1300. By Nishikawa Kyotaro and Emily J Sano, Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth) and Japan House Gallery, 1982. 50+ photos and a wonderfully written overview of each period. Includes handy section on techniques used to make the statues.  The Great Age of Japanese Buddhist Sculpture (AD 300 - 1300).
     
  • Comprehensive Dictionary of Japan's National Treasures. 国宝大事典 (西川 杏太郎). Published by Kodansha Ltd. 1985. 404 pages, hardcover, over 300 photos, mostly color, many full-page spreads. Japanese Language Only. ISBN 4-06-187822-0.
     
  • Bosatsu on Clouds, Byōdō-in Temple. Catalog, May 2000. Published by Byodoin Temple. Produced by Askaen Inc. and Nissha Printing Co. Ltd. 56 pages, Japanese language (with small English essay). Over 50 photos, both color, B&W. Some photos at this site were scanned from this book. Of particular use when studying the life and work of Jōchō Busshi.
     
  • Visions of the Pure Land: Treasures of Byōdō-in Temple
    Catalog, 2000. Published by Asahi Shimbun. Artwork from Byodo-in Temple. 228 pages, Japanese language with English index of works. Over 100 photos, color and B&W. Some photos at this site were scanned from this book. No longer in print. Of particular use when studying the life and work of Jōchō Busshi.
     
  • Numerous Japanese-language temple and museum catalogs, magazines, books, and web sites. See Japanese Bibliography for extended list.

 

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BUSSHI GUIDEBOOK MENU
Introduction & Index to Japanese Buddhist Sculptors (Busshi)

Asuka | Hakuhō | Nara | Heian | Kamakura | Muromachi | Edo | Modern

Busshi Glossary  |  Jōchō Busshi  |  Unkei Busshi  |  Kaikei Busshi

Contemporary Busshi Mukoyoshi Yūboku & Nakamura Keiboku

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