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Bodies and Benefits

Bodies and Benefits

From Six to Thirty-Three Kannon

(p.216) Chapter Six Bodies and Benefits
Accounts and Images of Six Kannon in Japan
Sherry D. Fowler
University of Hawai'i Press

Painted and printed sets of Thirty-three Kannon transported from China in the fifteenth century inspired the shift to Thirty-three Kannon worship. This new theme in Japan is exemplified by the celebrated set from 1412 attributed to Minchō. Another area of transition between the Six and Thirty-three Kannon cults is in the fact that the main temple icons of the major Thirty-three Kannon pilgrimage routes all feature one of the Six Kannon rather than any of the thirty-three images described in the Lotus sūtra or those imported from China. Within the context of pilgrimage, one surprising area of transition between the cults is found in the imagery cast into large bronze bells used at Buddhist temples. Finally, beginning in the seventeenth century, boundaries of the distribution of multiple Kannon imagery were pushed even further as publications of the printed iconographic manual Butsuzō zui, which clearly organized illustrations of groups of Seven and Thirty-three Kannon, rapidly proliferated throughout Japan and then abroad, giving Kannon worldwide exposure.

Keywords:   Thirty-Three Kannon, Minchō, pilgrimage, Saigoku, Chichibu, Bandō, Lotus sūtra, bells, Butsuzō zui, Siebold

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