|KEY WORD : architecture / general terms|
| Lit. stone Buddha. A Buddhist image made in rock or stone. The term sekizou 石造 (carving from stone) was used to indicate the material of a sculptured work. Sekibutsu were divided broadly into two groups:
1 *Magaibutsu 磨崖仏; Buddhist images carved on large rock outcrops, cliffs, or in caves. Caves carved with Buddhist images which were large enough for people to enter and used as temples were specifically called sekkutsu jiin 石窟寺院 (cave temple).
2 A free-standing, movable statue carved from stone. Carving a work from a single block of stone was called isseki-zukuri 一石造. Sometimes a single figure or group statue was carved out of a single block of stone, but sometimes several blocks were joined. Stone was the chief material used for Buddhist images in China and India, whilst in Japan stone statues have never challenged the dominance of wood and bronze because appropriate stone materials were not so readily available. Nevertheless, examples dating from the 7c on can be found over a very wide area of the country. Mainly soft rocks such as tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) and tufa (porous calcium carbonate rock) were used until the 12c, but thereafter hard rocks such as granite came to be used.
The oldest known sekibutsu in Japan is the Buddha triad sansonzou 三尊像 in Ishiidera 石位寺, Nara (late 7c); the central figure and two attendants were carved out of a single block of stone in an intermediate level of relief hannikubori 半肉彫. Another well-known example is the 8c bodhisattva *bosatsu 菩薩 group called zutou 頭塔, Nara; 13 figures were carved in low relief *usunikubori 薄肉彫 on a single stone block. There are a few other examples dating from the 9c in the Nara, and after the 10c large-scale rock and cliff carvings were produced over a very wide area of Japan. Famous examples of magaibutsu include those in Usuki 臼杵, Ooita prefecture (11-12c), Ooya 大谷, Tochigi prefecture (11-12c), Izumisawa 泉沢, Fukushima prefecture, as well as the Fudou sanzonzou 不動三尊像 at Nissekiji 日石寺 in Toyama prefecture (12c). It is speculated that stone statues suddenly became popular because their durable quality suited the mood of the "end of the world" belief mappou shisou 末法思想 prevalent in the 10th to early 11c. The 13c production of sekibutsu once again focused sculpture production on much smaller-scale works, and with the exception of the group stone carvings at Hakone 箱根 in Kanagawa prefecture, no magaibutsu carvings were produced. However, numerous, small-scale free-standing stone statues related to regional popular faith, such as *Jizou 地蔵, *Shoumen Kongou 青面金剛, or local Shinto deities *Shintou bijutsu 神道美術, were produced and placed at the outskirts of a village to ward off evil and sickness. Many such statues can still be seen today on roadsides.
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