Nara jidai 奈良時代
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
The Nara period (645-794). In 645 a coup to restore Imperial authority was carried out by Prince Naka no Ooe 中大兄 (later, Emperor Tenji 天智; r. 661/2-71), after which the capital was moved to Naniwa 浪速 (also written 難波, modern Osaka) but this was in turn abandoned (653) and a new palace built in the Asuka 飛鳥 region, Nara. The next year the Taika Reform, Taika no kaishin 大化改新 (645) edicts were issued, and their effect was so great that many scholars (especially those outside Japan) see this time as being the true start of the Nara period, rather than after the capital actually moved to Nara (710). The majority of sources both Japanese and foreign treat the period as ending with the move of the capital to Heiankyou 平安京 (present-day Kyoto). From 710-94, the capital was located at Nara (then known as Heijoukyou 平城京), and this gives the period its name. During the Nara period, Japan was enamoured of Tang culture and this style predominates in Buddhist painting, sculpture and architecture. The new capital at Nara, Heijoukyou was modelled after the Tang capital of Chang'an (Jp: Chouan 長安/ modern-day Xian ; Jp: Seian 西安) and a colossal bronze Buddha, inspired by the great image carved in the cliffs of Longmen (Jp: Ryuumon 竜門) near Chang'an was cast for Toudaiji 東大寺 in Nara. Many images of the Nara period were made in hollow dry lacquer *kanshitsu 乾漆 a technique also popular in Tang China. One example is the ten foot high seated figure of Vairocana *Rushanabutsu 盧舎那仏 which is the main image of the Golden Hall *Kondou 金堂 of Toushoudaiji 唐招提寺. Unfired and brightly polychromed clay images such as those found at Dunhuang (Jp: Tonkou 敦煌) were also made during the Nara period. Excellent examples of this type of sculpture are the Four Heavenly Guardian Kings Shitennou 四天王 of the Kaidan-in 戒壇院 at Toudaiji.


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