Asuka Period - Introduction of Buddhism

Introduction of Buddhism

The introduction of Buddhism to Japan is attributed to the Baekje king Seong in 538, exposing Japan to a new body of religious doctrine. The Soga clan, a Japanese court family that rose to prominence with the ascension of the Emperor Kimmei about 531, favored the adoption of Buddhism and of governmental and cultural models based on Chinese Confucianism. But some at the Yamato court—such as the Nakatomi family, which was responsible for performing Shinto rituals at court, and the Mononobe, a military clan—were set on maintaining their prerogatives and resisted the alien religious influence of Buddhism. The Soga introduced Chinese-modeled fiscal policies, established the first national treasury, and considered the kingdoms of Korea as trade partners rather than as objects of territorial expansion. Acrimony continued between the Soga and the Nakatomi and Mononobe clans for more than a century, during which the Soga temporarily emerged ascendant.

In the Taika Reform, the Funeral Simplification Edict was proclaimed, and the building of large kofun (tumuli) was banned. The edict also regulated size and shape of kofun by classes. As a result, later kofun, though much smaller, were distinguished by elaborate frescoes. Paintings and decorations in those kofun indicate the spread of Taoism and Buddhism in this period; the Takamatsuzuka Kofun and Kitora Kofun are notable for their wall paintings.

The use of elaborate kofun tombs by the imperial family and other elite thus fell out of use amidst the rise of prevailing new Buddhist beliefs, which put greater emphasis on the transience of human life. Commoners and the elite in outlying regions, however, continued to use kofun until the late seventh century, and simpler but distinctive tombs continued in use throughout the following period.

In 675 the use of livestock and the consumption of some wild animals (horse, cattle, dogs, monkeys, birds) was banned by Emperor Temmu due to the influence of Buddhism. This ban was renewed throughout the Asuka period, but ended with the Heian period. The pest animals, deer and wild boar, were not affected by this ban.

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