The sculptures of the Asuka period also show how Japan considerably adopted and assimilated the Chinese and Korean styles into their artwork. The Horyu-ji treasures are so rare, because they date back to the seventh century. They are among the world's most precious antiquities.
The temple and pagoda allow people today to see a wonderful example of architecture done in the Six Dynasties Chinese style. Because of this temple design, the shrine has been utilized over the centuries as a model for following and making repairs to other buildings that have been damaged by fires, namely the Golden Hall (Lee, 1994:167). The temple is also very special because it includes a statue of the Bodhisattava Kannon although "the multitude of small embossed Buddha-figures on the doors and walls of the interior... suggests that the original image was a figure of Shaka" (Mizuno, 2003: 48). The temple's four sides have paintings "Done in lacquer, they represent Bodhisattvas, Pagodas and scenes of devotion such as the sacrifice to a hungry tigress. There are also narrative scenes taken from the Jakata stories, depicting the virtuous deed accomplished by the Bodhisattvas and how they managed to attain Buddhahood as a result" (Popham 1990:40). In addition to the Tamamushi shrine there are also many other works in Horyu-ji temple like the Shaka Triad.
The Shaka Triad is one of the oldest bronze images. It is located in the Golden Hall. It is six feet tall and was designed by the famous sculptor Tori Busshi. Its image displays the Buddha Shakyamuni sitting between two Bodhisattvas (Lee, 1994:168). The Shaka has his legs crossed. His hands are placed in one of a number of mudras. "He has a protuberance on his head and a third eye that indicate extraordinary knowledge and vision and are among some twenty three bodily signs introduced by the Mahayana Buddhist to indicate [shaka's] superhuman qualities" (Varley, 1984:26). The empress Suiko asked Tori Busshi to make the statue after Shotoku Taishi, the leader of Horyu-ji, died. The back of the sculpture is inscribed with a dedication to the prince, and the statue's dimensions are the same as the prince (Mizuno, 2003:32). In addition to the bronze statue, there are several wooden sculptures in Horyu-ji that are very important too.
The most famous wooden sculptures are Yumedono Kannon, the Kadara Kanon and the Chugu-ji Miroku, which is the Buddha of the future. It is found in the nunnery of that is next to the Horyu-ji temple. It is one of three statues of Buddha meditating with one foot resting on the opposite knee called the half-lotus position. It was painted when first made, but now all its color is gone (Lee, 1994: 171). "The chugu-ji image has the elements of Six Dynasties... The waterfall drapery, the simulated bamboo pole holding halo, the beautiful linear, flame like pattern on the edges of the halo, the archaic smile, the serrated and curling edges of the hair as it falls over the shoulder" (Lee). It has quite feeling of soft sweetness and very feminine. This statue was considered to sacred that it was kept in white silk wrapping and shown to no one, not even the monks of the temple" (Mizuno, 2003:69). Because of this, the statue was not found until 1884. The cloth was still around it, and it was in such perfect condition that his moustache was still painted on. His clothing, done in the waterfall style, reflects the six dynasties style (Mizuno, 69).
The Horyu-ji temple housed some of the most important sculptures of this early Asuka period. The temple represents the history of Japan and its beauty of the arts. Most of all, it is important because it is the first time in Japanese history that it is possible to see the major influence that Buddhism had on Japan from then until today. The temple will always be remembered for its traditional representation of art and religion.
Bai, S. (2001) Notes on Visits to the Hoyuji Temple. Journal of East Archaelogy.
Lee, E. Sherman (1994). A History of the Far Eastern Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1994.
Mizuno, S. (1974). Asuka Buddhist Art: Horyu-ji. New York: Weatherhill.
Popham, P. (1990) Wooden Temples of Japan. London: Tauris Parke Books, 1990.
Ryoshin, T. (2007). Horyuji, a World Heritage described. Yanagihara Shuppan, 185- 190.