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Canonizing Kannon: The Ninth-Century Esoteric Buddhist Altar at Kanshinji

Cynthea J. Bogel
The Art Bulletin
Vol. 84, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), pp. 30-64
Published by: College Art Association
DOI: 10.2307/3177252
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3177252
Page Count: 35
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Canonizing Kannon: The Ninth-Century Esoteric Buddhist Altar at Kanshinji
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Abstract

The celebrated ninth-century Nyoirin Kannon statue of Kanshinji is regarded by scholars as the temple's original honzon (main icon) and a paradigm of Esoteric Buddhist expression. This essay highlights the canonizing strategies of modern scholarship and suggests another honzon for Kashinji's early history. A study of records and contexts points to the importance of both extant and lost ninth-century statues at the temple. At the same time, historiographic investigation highlights the adverse relationship between scholarly research on Kanshinji and modern apologists' presentation of Esoteric Buddhism and its icons as enigmatic and sensual, and other misrepresentations of their function.

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