Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastery

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University of Washington Press, 2005 - Architecture - 444 pages
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The Zen Buddhist monastery Daitokuji in Kyoto has long been revered as a cloistered meditation centre, a repository of art treasures, and a wellspring of the "Zen aesthetic." Gregory Levine's Daitokuji unsettles these conventional notions with groundbreaking inquiry into the significant and surprising visual and social identities of sculpture, painting, and calligraphy associated with this fourteenth-century monastery and its enduring monastic and lay communities.
The book begins with a study of Zen portraiture at Daitokuji that reveals the precariousness of portrait likeness; the face that gazes out from an abbot's painting or statue may not be who we expect it to be or submit quietly to interpretation. By tracing the life of Daitokuji's famed statue of the chanoyu patriarch Sen no Riky-u (1522-91), which was all but destroyed by the ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-98) but survived in Rash-omon-like narratives and reconstituted sculptural forms, Levine throws light upon the contested status of images and their mytho-poetic potential. Levine then draws from the seventeenth-century journal of K-ogetsu S-ogan, Bokuseki no utsushi, to explore practices of calligraphy connoisseurship at Daitokuji and the pivotal role played by the monastery's abbots within Kyoto art circles. The book's final section explores Daitokuji's annual airings of temple treasures not merely as a practice geared toward preservation but also as a space in which different communities vie for authority over the artistic past. An epilogue follows the peripatetic journey of the monastery's scrolls of the 500 Luohan from China to Japan, to exhibition and partial sale in the West, and back to Daitokuji.
Illuminating canonical and heretofore ignored works and mining a trove of documents, diaries, and modern writings, Levine argues for the plurality of Daitokuji's visual arts and the breadth of social and ritual circumstances of art making and viewing within the monastery. This diversity encourages reconsideration of stereotyped notions of "Zen art" and offers specialists and general readers alike opportunity to explore the fertile and sometimes volatile nexus of the visual arts and religious sites in Japan.

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Art Historys Daitokuji
Abbot Portraiture at Daitokuji i
The Founders Statue at Korinin
The Frailty of Likeness
Telling the Tale
Tracing the Calligraphic Past at Daitokuji
The Creation of Bokuseki
Reading Kogetsu
Calligraphy Forgery and Bokuseki
Airings Exhibitions and Feuds
Illustration Credits

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About the author (2005)

Gregory P. A. Levine is associate professor of art history at the University of California, Berkeley.

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