2006 Student-Faculty Fellows: Loyola Marymount University

A Forgotten Age – The Material Culture of Kamakura Zen

Mentor: Katherine Anne Harper, Art History
Student: Stephanie Jewel, ’07


Kamakura Temple Sculpture

Katherine Anne Harper

Our project centered on the early Zen culture of Kamakura, the place where Zen took root in Japan. Most published studies in English of Japanese Zen have focused on the city of Kyoto and the full-blown Zen of the Ashikaga Period. Our interest focused on nascent Japanese Zen and the early Zen temples in Kamakura. They are: Jifukuji (founded in 1200 by Eisai Myo-an), Jyomyoji (founded in 1212 by Taiko Gyoyu), Kenchoji Temple (founded in 1253 for Rankei Doryu), Engakuji (founded in 1282 by Tokimune Hojo), Jochiji (founded in 1285 by kakusanshidoni) and Zuizenji (founded in 1327 by Muso Soseki). With further research, we subsequently added two more temples to the original group. Jorakuji in neighboring Ofuna (founded in 1237) was the temple where Rankei Doryu (Lan Chi Tao Lung) lived while Kenchoji, the temple where he was to be installed as Abbot, was being constructed. The ninth site was Ennoji, a temple dedicated to the judges of the Buddhist hells. The original temple once stood near Kamakura’s coastline, but the original building was damaged by a tidal wave in 1703. After that event, what remained of the temple and the sculptures were moved to Kenchoji and Ennoji became a sub-temple in that greater Zen complex.

Part of the general project involved understanding the temples in context; in other words, the geographic and topographic setting for the temple complexes became an important consideration in understanding the function of Zen temples and how they served the community. Our work entailed a survey of the nine sites, taking photographs of buildings, sculpture, cemeteries and gardens. One of our goals is to produce a DVD for classroom use on Kamakura’s Zen culture. The DVD will include a historical narrative of the period and its Zen monuments. Also included will be photos and video clips of the nine temples in our study. The DVD will include the students’ research papers.

Working with two of the brightest and most dedicated students I have had in recent years was and continues to be a great joy and personally very satisfying. I experienced Japanese culture anew by seeing it through their fresh visions. They were uncomplaining and…always went about their work in a professional manner. They have been a great inspiration to me. Both young women plan to work for a Ph.D. and certainly their future work will be influenced by their time and research in Japan.

Stephanie Jewell

My objective at the outset of this project was to research and investigate sculpture produced by Zen temples in the region of Kamakura. Kamakura sculpture is largely unexplored and little is published on the images explaining regional quality apparent to the few works already in the public eye. My goal was to investigate all of Kamakura sculpture and produce an initial survey to be used as a guide to further in depth studies of Kamakura era sculpture. Once in Kamakura, I was overwhelmed by the amount of sculpture we encountered. I quickly discovered that to write a general overview of all Kamakura sculpture…would be a project better suited for a doctoral thesis. It became apparent that I would have to simplify by not conducting a general study of Kamakura sculpture (but rather focus my attention on one type of sculptures) the Judges or Lords of the Hells. Subsequently, I visited a number of temples that housed such images, and my research came to a climax when I conducted two interviews with a scholar of Kamakura history at the Kamakura Museum and the Abbot of the Ennoji Temple. During the interviews, general questions focused on the use of images of the Lords of Hell in Zen Buddhism, the role of each individual judge, and the artist or workshop that produced the images.