Cynthea J. Bogel (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1995) is Professor (Japanese Art History and Buddhist Visual Cultures of Asia) in the Faculty of Humanities, Co-Chair of the International Masters and Doctorate Programs in Japanese Humanities, Kyushu University since 2012; and Editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University since 2015. She was previously a professor of art history at the Universities of Oregon and Washington (Seattle) for nearly 20 years and was curator of Asian art and ethnology at the RISD Museum of Art. Bogel’s awards include grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Getty Foundation. Her book publications range from Hiroshige: Birds and Flowers (1988) to With a Single Glance: Buddhist Icon and Early Mikkyō Vision (2009). Her articles focus primarily on Buddhist icons and temples in Japan, imported Chinese icons, Edo prints, art historiography, and aesthetics.
「 Cosmoscapes and Hybrid Traces on an Eighth-century Japanese Buddhist Icon 」
Yakushi-ji, a monastery dedicated to the Yakushi Buddha (Healing Buddha), houses a cast-bronze Buddha seated on a ca. 150 cm. multi-tiered pedestal. The pedestal’s curious and exceptional gathering of motifs and figures is arguably of paradigm significance to understanding the character of Buddhism and icon-making in ca. 700 Japan. Embellishing the edges and vertical surfaces of the stepped pedestal are all manner of hybrid creations. Grapevine arabesques, creatures from the Roman and Indic worlds, and geometric patterns from Europe, West Asia, and East Asia strongly convey the sense of a world beyond and seem out of place on a Buddhist icon. Twelve crouching figures within niches may be traced to Rome, India, and/or China; they occupy a liminal position between the foreign or demonic and the converted. Adding to the mix is the appearance of the four spirits— Chinese animal-symbols of the four directions. The four animals and grapevine motifs, along with the appearance of two pudgy pillar-supporting figures that again evoke Rome and India, are unique in all of East Asia. Generally described as a testimonial of Silk Road transmission or a “naïve expression of Buddhist figuration,” the decoration of this early eighth-century Japanese Buddha pedestal offers us much more food for thought. At the same time, this paper examines questions of transmission and hybridity when tracing EuroAsian motifs. We attempt to situate the multi-faceted intentions of this plethora of talismanic marks in a specific time and place, and to consider the ontological filters that created these foreign designs.