Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography
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Professor ten Grotenhuis' book deserves a wide audience. Anyone interested in religious art will be delighted to find images of exceptional beauty illustrating a readable yet authoritative introduction to the worlds of the Japanese mandala. Specialists will be equally delighted to find that ten Grotenhuis offers engaging, fruitful new ways of thinking about these pictures, for instance by placing Buddhist images in the context of pre-Buddhist Chinese texts.
From most studies on this subject we get the view that mandalas originated in the Indian context and spread to China and Japan. What sets this study apart is the exploration of a Chinese, pre-Buddhist origin for the East Asian concept of mandala. Ten Grotenhuis (Harvard and Boston Univ.) examines the mandalas of Pure Land Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, and Shintoism from the eighth to 17th centuries, focusing mainly on paintings. Her pioneering assertion that Japanese mandalas follow Chinese texts on sacred geography will change the way most scholars look at the use of this ritual and sacred art... The book is readable and beautifully presented to the nonspecialist. For the specialist in the fields of religion and art, Buddhism, Asian religions, and comparative religions, ten Grotenhuis presents many avenues for further research. General readers and all academic levels.