From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Statue of Kūya by Kōshō, son of Unkei, at Rokuharamitsu-ji (六波羅蜜寺),[1] Kyoto, dating to the first decade of the thirteenth century and an Important Cultural Property.[2] The six syllables of the nembutsu, na-mu-a-mi-da-butsu, are represented literally by six small figures of Amida streaming from Kūya's mouth. He walks as if on a pilgrimage, holding a staff topped with an antler and striking a gong.[3] Similar statues, all of the Kamakura period and Important Cultural Properties, may be found at Tsukinowa-dera (月輪寺)[4][5] in Kyoto, Jōdo-ji (浄土寺)[6][7] in Ehime Prefecture and Shōgon-ji (荘厳寺)[8][9] in Shiga Prefecture. There are a number of related images of Zendō (Shan-tao), with holes in the mouth thought to be for attaching now lost figures.[10][11]

Kūya (空也)(903-972) was an itinerant Japanese priest who, along with Genshin and Jakushin, was an early promoter of the practice of the nembutsu amongst the common people in order to attain salvation and entry into the Pure land of Amida. The movement gained in strength during the Heian period as a reaction against the worldly and military character of the established temples during the age of Mappō.

Said to have been of aristocratic or imperial descent, Kūya was a Tendai Upāsaka but departed from Mount Hiei and proselytized the nembutsu in Kyoto and the provinces, gaining the name ichi hijiri (holy man of the marketplace) and Amida hijiri. Kūya took images with him on his travels and added musical rhythm and dance to his prayers, known as odori nembutsu.[12] Like Gyōki, he is said to have performed works for the public benefit such as building roads and bridges, digging wells, and burying abandoned corpses.[13][14][15]

Biographies of Kūya were written by his friends and followers Jakushin and Minamoto-no-Tamenori, and Number 18 of the Ryōjin Hishō derives from 'Kūya's Praise'.[13][16] The late tenth-century collection of biographies of those who had attained rebirth in the Pure Land, the Nihon ōjō gokuraki ki, attributes to Kūya the devotion of all Japan to the nembutsu.[15] He is also known as founder of Rokuharamitsu-ji.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rokuharamitsuji - Important Cultural Properties". Rokuharamitsu-ji. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Database of Registered National Cultural Properties". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Mōri, Hisashi (1977). Japanese Portrait Sculpture. Kodansha. pp. 83–85, 116. ISBN 0-87011-286-4. 
  4. ^ "Tsukinowa-dera". Blog (images and map). Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Database of Registered National Cultural Assets". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Jōdoji Kūya". Matsuyama City. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  7. ^ "Database of Registered National Cultural Properties". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Shōgonji Kūya". Shiga Prefecture. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "Database of Registered National Cultural Properties". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Mōri, Hisashi (1977). Japanese Portrait Sculpture. Kodansha. p. 65. ISBN 0-87011-286-4. 
  11. ^ Mōri, Hisashi (1974). Sculpture of the Kamakura Period. Weatherhill. pp. 126f. ISBN 0-8348-1017-4. 
  12. ^ Moriarty, Elisabeth (1976). Nembutsu Odori, Asian Folklore Studies Vol. 35, No. 1 , pp. 7-16
  13. ^ a b Hori, Ichiro (1968). Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change. University of Chicago Press. pp. 106–8. ISBN 0-226-35334-6. 
  14. ^ Tamura, Yoshiro (2000). Japanese Buddhism: A Cultural History. Kosei Publishing. pp. 82–85. ISBN 4-333-01684-3. 
  15. ^ a b Hall, John Whitney (et al. edd.) (1999). Cambridge History of Japan Vol.II. Cambridge University Press. pp. 514, 574. ISBN 0-521-22353-9. 
  16. ^ Kim, Yung-Hee (1994). Songs to Make the Dust Dance. University of California Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-520-08066-1. 
  17. ^ "Rokuharamitsuji - History". Rokuharamitsuji. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 

Further reading[edit]