This lavishly illustrated volume is the first study in a Western language to examine Buddhist sculptures known as danzo (sandalwood images) and dangan (portable sandalwood shrines) in Japan from the 8th to 14th centuries, including Chinese examples from the 6th to 13th centuries, which were imported into Japan and played a major role in the establishment of an indigenous danzo tradition.
The author defines danzo as religious icons in terms of their material, form (iconography and style) and religious functions.
This includes a careful examination of major issues in the study of danzo such as the transmission of danzo from India via China to Japan, the choice of substitute materials for sandalwood, carving technique, and danjiki (colour of sandalwood).
Most importantly, this study proposes a new definition of the form of danzo based on the distinction between the type-style and period-style.
Furthermore, it demonstrates how the aesthetic-religious concept of shogon (sublime adornment), which is important to Buddhist art in general, is expressed in danzo, making them into objects of shogon par excellence. A wealth of textual evidence is presented to suggest that the two most common religious functions of danzo were as icons in ceremonies and for personal devotion for high-ranking monks, aristocrats, and members of the imperial family, which reflects the special sanctity and efficacy ascribed to these images.
This book aims at a more inclusive understanding of danzo as religious icons with distinctive material, formal and functional characteristics that define them as a unique group of sacred images within Japanese Buddhist sculpture.