butsuden-zu  仏伝図
KEY WORD : art history / iconography
Lit. illustrated biographies of the Buddha. Artistic representations, usually painted or in low-relief sculpture, of the life of the historical Buddha *Shaka 釈迦. The earliest references to Shaka's life, found in the Pali Vinaya Pitaka (Jp: Ritsuzou 律蔵; Collection of the Precepts), are relatively free of supernatural elements. But later accounts of his life that appeared in India greatly embellished the details, and it is these that provide much of the subject matter for the illustrated biographies. Especially well known are the bas-reliefs at Sanci Gandhara, and Amaravati in India and at Borobudur in Java. At the same time there also developed the practice of selecting for artistic representation several main episodes from Shaka's life, commonly referred to as the eight Shaka scenes *Shaka hassou 釈迦八相. In addition, certain episodes in his life were also made the subject of independent works of art; these include: his birth *tanjoubutsu 誕生仏; the events prior to his enlightenment *shussan Shaka 出山釈迦; and his death *nehan-zu 涅槃図 and *kinkan shutsugen-zu 金棺出現図. The Illustrated Scripture of Cause and Effect *e-ingakyou 絵因果経 presents a more unified account of the first half of his life (and also of his past lives). With the gradual apotheosis of Shaka after his death, his enlightenment came to be glorified as an event unattainable by ordinary human beings, and so it was postulated that he had performed the prerequisite practices in past lives. This resulted in the propagation of stories relating to his former lives, and these in turn were also made the subject of artistic representation.

*honjou-zu 本生図

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