Speaker: Prof Akiko Walley, University of Oregon
On 711 CE, Hōryūji (Nara prefecture, Japan) completed the rebuilding of its five-story pagoda, which was destroyed by the conflagration of 670. The pagoda nestled the relics of the Buddha underground in an elaborate reliquary, while murals and panoramic sutra tableaux decorated the interior of the first story. Hōryūji was first established as Ikarugadera, a family temple of the crowned prince, Umayato (also Umayado) no Toyotomimi (574-621/22). Soon after his death, the charismatic prince came to be reverently called “Shōtoku Taishi” (Prince of Sagely Virtue) and idolized as an ideal ruler and patriarch of Japanese Buddhism. At the core of this devotion was the doubling of the prince’s image with the Śākyamuni and popular bodhisattvas mediated by the belief in the miraculous properties of the relics of the Buddha. Previous studies have noted that Hōryūji took advantage of the rebuilding to reestablish its identity as a hub for the rising cultic devotion to the prince. However, the position the visual program of the pagoda within this new scheme is yet to be identified. Focusing on the five-story pagoda, this presentation reconsiders the Hōryūji layout in the context of the late seventh- and early eighth-century relic devotion and Prince Shōtoku Cult.