The Art of Zen: From Mind to Form
18 October – 27 November 2016
The Tokyo National Museum
Zen is deeply ingrained in the heart of Japanese culture.
In Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, teachings have been directly passed down from master to disciple. Practice of sitting mediation (“zazen”) is prioritized over the study of scriptures.
Tradition holds that about 1500 years ago, Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) brought Zen (dhyāna in Sanskrit, chan in Chinese) from India to China. Later, Rinzai Gigen (Linji Yixuan – 867) propagated Zen Buddhism in the country.
It was in the Kamakura period in the 12th century that Zen Buddhism spread widely in Japan, not only among samurais and aristocrats, but also among commoners. Cultural relics and customs were also brought in with the religion, contributing to the development of Japanese Zen culture. The art of tea ceremony, for instance, is the fruit of that development.
The exhibition brings together masterpieces pertaining to Zen, with the full cooperation of all the Japanese monasteries and temples belonging to 15 branches (Rinzai and Obaku) of Zen Buddhism. With a total of 240 articles (including 22 National Treasures and 102 Important Cultural Properties) such as portrayals of Zen monks and calligraphy arts, this impressive exhibition offers an excellent overview of Japanese Zen culture.
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