It would be difficult to find an area of Japanese culture which has not been greatly influenced by Buddhism.
Our exhibition shows the most precious examples of Japanese Buddhist art in Polish collections, among which sculptures deserve special attention. These statues and figurines are a tangible exposition of Buddhist doctrine, speaking to the viewer in a language of symbols. Another important component of the show is painting, including mandalas (Jap. mandara) offering visions of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land as well ‘depictions of welcome upon arrival’ (Jap. raigōzu), in which Amida and a train of his attendant bodhisattvas descend to meet a deceased believer. Woodblock prints, portraying the Japanese society of the Edo period, are no less significant.
For several centuries after the rise of new forms of Buddhism in the Kamakura period (13th–14th c.), it exerted strong influence over mainstream culture. Continuing to look to China for inspiration, it creatively transformed the forms of culture coming from the continent in ways characteristic of the indigenous genius, contributing to the creation of all those arts that are now associated with traditional Japan. From sculpture and painting, through the Way of Tea (Jap. sadō) and calligraphy, to haiku poetry and nō theatre, Buddhist influence is evident in all of these and many other cultural phenomena. The adepts of specific arts were often Buddhist clerics.
The exhibition shows works from the collections of Polish museums: Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, National Museum in Kraków, National Museum in Poznań, National Museum in Warsaw, and the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Kraków.