This Issue focuses on the Buddhist architecture in East Asia. Over the last two thousand years since its legendary introduction to the Han court in the first century, Buddhism has transformed not only people’s intellectual and practical lives but also the built environments of East Asia. From Mount Kunlun to the Japanese Isles, from the Mongolian prairie to the coasts of the South China Sea, mountains were carved for devotion and hermitic practices, cities were rebuilt for new religious life, and new architectural types were created to honor the relics of the enlightened ones and to cope with the evolving religion as it was gradually integrated with the local cultures. The articles in this Issue are aimed to capture the scope and diversity of Buddhist architecture in East Asia, and at the same time, to reflect the front lines of research in the field.
The scholarship on East Asian Buddhist architecture has been so far highly focused on famous temples, influential monasteries, and monumental landmarks. In this collection, while by no means bypassing those significant examples and topics, we try to restore a more balanced picture of Buddhist practice and the built environment by incorporating buildings and planning from the overlooked regions and aspects of Buddhism. We encourage contributions that feature shrines and temples in small villages as well as those in sacred mountains, forms reshaped by contemporary life as well as those of purer historical styles, and Buddhist practice in the domestic realm as well as those of pilgrimage significance.
The scholarship on East Asian Buddhist architecture has also been highly focused on the more publicized dominating cultures of China, Japan, and Korea. In this collection, we encourage discussions of examples from the neglected regions in the field and cultures of religious hybridity from those countries, as well as the rich and colorful Buddhist landscapes of Mongolia, Vietnam, etc. We are especially interested in the Buddhist architectural traditions along cultural borders, regions that used to be independent regimes in the past but are now within the borders of a modern country such as the ones named above (e.g., the Ryukyu Islands).
We also want to go beyond the well-established scholarships on stylistic changes, technical development of architectural carpentry, and the typological studies of halls and pagodas. We are especially interested in the way architecture is built for and shaped by the Buddhist practice of a given community, the way architecture is integrated into the spiritual life and material culture, and the way different art forms, both spatial and performing arts, share common themes and concepts with architecture to foster a comprehensive culture that sustains the life and identity of a place. These are significant issues not only for the scholarship on architectural history, but also meaningful for the contemporary building of our own life and faith.