Buddhist Temples in Japan, Past and Present

7 Jan

Program Director: Cynthea J. Bogel , Art History
Dates of Instruction:
September 2 – 21, 2008

Course Content and Structure
This 20-day seminar introduces students to the beauty and profundity of Buddhist temples. In the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara we will experience Buddhist architecture, icons and ritual art, gardens, meditation and daily monastery life, monks and nuns, food, and ancient history. We will experience the tea ceremony and tea arts as they relate to medieval Buddhism. Participants will discover Buddhism as a visual and material tradition as well as a philosophical one.

In Kyoto we will reside for 11 days in a Zen temple, Shunkōin, within Myōshinji (head of the Rinzai Zen tradition in Kyoto), 3 days at the beginning of our trip and 8 at the end. Our stay will be enriched by interactions with the Vice Abbot of this family-owned temple, who studied in the US for 7 years and speaks English.

japanDaily morning Zen meditation sessions are offered for those who wish to practice, and Japanese “survival” lessons will be given the first three days. Bicycles will be available for exploring Kyoto, a fascinating and safe city of 1.5 million people. Students will sample many kinds of Japanese foods and have the opportunity to visit a temple flea market. We will stay 6 days in the heart of the 8th century capital of Nara, walking ancient paths through sacred forests and visiting ancient temples and Shinto shrines devoted to indigenous gods. There will be free time to visit the metropolis of Osaka or relax in Nara. We will also spend two days in the “summit city of temples” atop Mt. Kōya, deep in in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, where the Esoteric master Kûkai Kobo Daishi established a meditation training center in the ninth century. Here again we will stay in a practicing monastery (Henjōkō’in, with a huge bath and vegetarian Buddhist meals prepared for us).

We will consider Buddhist temples and their icons from different aspects: history and chronology, artistic medium, Buddhist school or sect, and ritual function. We will also touch upon common themes, styles, and subjects among Japanese, Chinese, and Korean temples. This seminar will observe the particular ways by which visual meaning and visual efficacy are conveyed by a Buddhist temple and its icons, including symbolism, representational strategies, and material techniques. By the end of the seminar students will appreciate how and why Buddhist visual culture was critical to Buddhism’s vitality and the continuing life of Buddhist icons and temples in Japan today.

Field trips will take place daily and will be led by Professor Bogel. Museum visits and guest lectures by Buddhist monks and resident art experts will supplement the learning process. Students will keep a journal and will respond in their journal to questions distributed at sites. In addition to visiting temples and museums, students will be encouraged to explore one aspect of particular interest to them for three days during the course: modern economics of japantemple tourism, materials used for making icons or buildings, the life of a modern priest, Shinto shrines and other religions in Japan, women and taboos in Buddhism, Buddhist philosophy in society, Buddhist cooking (shōjin ryōri), modern busshi (Buddhist sculptors) and workshops, mountain pilgrims, and a range of other topics will be presented to students before their departure for Japan so they may prepare a few readings and pursue independent study in Kyoto. This will be done at the end of the study period as a way of enriching seminar study with independent thinking.

The program includes all in-country transportation; all lodging; all temple, garden, and museum entry fees; Japanese lessons; a tea ceremony; Zen meditation; and extracurricular temple flea markets, a white-water boat trip, and hiking. It also includes 4 dinners and 4 breakfasts. Students can cook at the Zen monastery (inexpensive and fun), eat in local restaurants (breakfast $3-6; lunch  $6-10; dinner $9-20), or purchase o-bento from shops.

japanParticipants may receive 5 credits of ART H 321 (Art History 321: Arts of Japan) or CHID 474 Asia Study Abroad (I&S).  ART H 321 can be counted toward the Asian Studies major (Japan or General concentrations), or toward the Japan Studies minor, with certain limitations; see (http://jsis.washington.edu/advise/undergradstudy.html). For Comparative Religion majors the course will count as RELIG 399. Graduate credit and honors credit are also possible; please consult with Prof. Bogel or your advisor.

Books and Readings:
Required text: Mason, Penelope.  History of Japanese Art.  Revised by Donald Dinwiddie.  Second edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.  All students should purchase this book (used or new) and bring it to Japan. I will provide participants with a CD of images and PDF readings as soon as you register for the seminar. You can print it or, if you bring your computer, read the items from the disk.

japanStudent costs:  
$2,700 Program Fee
$200 IPE Fee

Additional costs include: round trip travel to Kansai International or Itami (Osaka) airport and transfer/train to Kyoto, health insurance, most meals, course materials, and personal expenses.

Apply Now - Click here for application


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