|Shoutoku Taishizou 聖徳太子像|
|KEY WORD : art history / iconography|
portraits in sculpture and painting made for the worship and reverence of Shoutoku Taishi 聖徳太子 (c. 574-622), prince regent of Japan. Shoutoku is widely recognized as a major force in introducing Buddhism to Japan and
is credited with codifying twelve court ranks, composing the Constitution
of Seventeen Articles and writing commentary on three Buddhist sutras. Idealized
portraits of Shoutoku Taishi were first made soon after his death,
but the production of images increased dramatically from the late Heian
and Kamakura periods. Portraits of Shoutoku depict a variety
of significant episodes and legends about his life. The majority fall into
one of four categories: (1) Namubutsu Taishizou 南無仏太子像 (Mantra Chanting), (2) Kouyou Taishizou 孝養太子像 (Offering Filial Piety), (3) Kousan Taishizou 講讃太子像 (Lecturing
on the Sutra), and (4) Sesshou Taishizou 摂政太子像 (Regent Taishi statues).
(1) Namubutsu Taishizou depict the prince at the age of two when, on the 15th day of the Second month, he reputedly faced east, placed his palms together, and recited the namubutsu, a prayer honoring the Buddha's name and calling up his grace. This precocious act is recounted in the early legendary histories such as the SHOUTOKU TAISHI DENRYAKU 聖徳太子伝暦. The earliest record of the image is found in an entry from 1210 of the AZUMAKAGAMI 吾妻鏡, which mentions our image installed in the private chapel of Minamoto no Sanetomo 源実朝 (ruled 1203-1219). Among the oldest extant Nanbutsu Taishizou are the wooden images in the Fogg Art Museum (around 1292), USA and Houryuuji 法隆寺 (1307), Nara.
(2) Kouyou Taishizou, often called of Shoutoku Taishi at the Age of 16, are generally thought to represent Shoutoku praying for the recovery of his ill father, Emperor Youmei 用明 (reigned 585- 87). The prince is said to have prayed by his father's side day and night, dressed in full court attire, and holding a long-handled incense burner. Youmei recovered and, thanks to his son's faith, converted to Buddhism. Images of a youthful Shoutoku in prayer, however, may represent another incident from Shoutoku's 16th year, in which he is said to have stopped to pray during a battle between his clan, the Soga 蘇我, and the Mononobe 物部 faction. The earliest known Kouyou Taishizou were sponsored by the Tendai 天台 sect. The oldest known Kouyou Taishizou is a painting from the set of portraits of esteemed Tendai monks (Ichijouji 一乗寺, Hyougo prefecture, late 11c). Shoutoku is shown seated cross-legged on a low dais wearing a monastic surplice *kesa 袈裟 and holding a long-handled incense burner. Inscriptions on the Ichijouji set suggest that the paintings were patterned after wall-painting produced before 946 of Enryakuji 延暦寺 on Mt. Hiei 比叡. The inclusion of Shoutoku in the set is based on the acceptance of the prince as an incarnation of the second Tendai patriarch Huisi (Jp: Eshi 慧思, 515- 77). Another early image of Kouyou Taishi is included in a painting of 36 venerated monks, from Ninnaji 仁和寺 (1163), Kyoto. In other early Kouyou Taishizou, references are made to Shoutoku as the reincarnation of *Kannon 観音 and apparently these images were worshipped by those seeking salvation and protection from disease and disaster, just as Kannon images were worshipped. From the late 13c on, the majority of Kouyou Taishi in painting and sculpture assume a standing posture. The 14c, Kouyou images come to depict him holding a scepter, along with the censer. The scepter, representative of secular authority, contrasts with the censer, which is indicative of spiritual pursuits.
(3) Kousan Taishizou represent an episode from Shotoku's 35th year, when he was ordered by Empress Suiko 推古 (reigned 592-628) to discourse on the SHOUMANGYOU 勝鬘経. According to the SHOUTOKU TAISHI DENRYAKU, Shoutoku sat on a lion's throne, holding a yak's tail fly wisk and lectured on the sutra. When finished, huge lotus petals fell miraculously from the heavens. Suiko erected a temple, Tachibanadera 橘寺 on the site. Painted and sculpted Kousan Taishizou show the prince crowned and seated, usually holding a fan. The oldest record of a Kousan Taishi image is found among inventory documents of the Touin 東院 at Houryuuji, dated 761.
(4) Sesshou Taishizou show Shoutoku as regent, between the ages of 32 and 49. He is usually depicted seated, wearing courtly attire and holding a scepter. The oldest known Sesshou Taishi image is a painting from the early Nara period (8c) in the Imperial Household Collection, which is traditionally called the "Chinese Style Portrait of a Nobleman"Karahon no Miei 唐本御影. Shoutoku stands with scepter in hand, flanked on each side by the smaller princes Yamashiro 山背 and Heguri 殖栗. The earliest extant sculpture of Sesshou Taishi is from the *Shouryouin 聖霊院 at Houryuuji (1121). In this work, the prince is seated, flanked by four accompanying figures.
Shoutoku Taishizou became prevalent from the 12-13c. It has been suggested that the Namubutsu, Kouyou, Kousan and Sesshou Taishi images represent the principal stages in the prince's life: infancy, youth and manhood, based on the widely disseminated SHOUTOKU TAISHI DENRYAKU. The popularity of these particular scenes from Shotoku's life is more likely due to their use by the new, popular sects of Buddhism such as Joudo 浄土, Joudoshin 浄土真, Ritsu 律 and Hokke 法華, which venerated the Taishi as founder and promoter of Buddhism in Japan, as well as an incarnation of such important Buddhist figures as *Shaka 釈迦, the historical Buddha. One factor in the appeal of Nanubutsu Taishizou seems to have been the parallel between the story of the two-year old Taishi reciting the namubutsu and the pictorialized story of Shaka as an infant pointing one hand to heaven and the other to earth roaring like a lion, "I am the Lord of the World." Similarly, Kousan Taishi images seem to parallel the account and depictions of the enlightened Shaka's lecture at the Deer Park, also delivered at age 35. During a time of political and social upheaval, such as occurred in the late Heian and early Kamakura periods, when the faithful feared that the period of mappou 末法 (degeneration of the Dharma Law) was at hand, the direct connection between Taishi and Shaka provided reassuring evidence of the authenticity of Japanese Buddhism and the benefits and salvation promised specifically in the teachings of these sects.
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