Structuring Narrative at Hōryū-ji
This chapter examines the narrative structure, composition, and architectural and ritual contexts of the paintings in the Picture Hall at Hōryū-ji. The illustrations of the life of Prince Shōtoku from 1069 form a multimedia vision of the prince as a superhuman figure, one who is bound inextricably to the architectural and ritual contexts of the temple. The images serve as a visual relic that offered temple visitors privileged access to the living Shōtoku and, by extension, the historical Buddha. The built in context of the paintings represents one of the earliest extant manifestations in Japan of what can be called hagiographic architecture, in that it frames a vision of Shōtoku as a holy man and locates the temple at a pivot point in the Japanese landscape and Buddhist history.
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