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Narrated Spaces, Spatial Texts: The Matrix of The Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu

Monika Dix 
Saginaw Valley State University 

Place-making signals a cultural presence and gives the place a social significance. At the same time, it is in the social construction of a place that peoples’ identities unfold. In this sense, landscapes – both real and imaginary –like the Ten Worlds depicted in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu, are meaningful, socially constructed places involving bodily and cognitive experiences.
The Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu is of particular interest because, unlike other Ten
World images, the two highest realms of enlightened existence – namely those of the bodhisattvas and buddhas - are replaced by the Taima mandara, a pictorial diagram of Amida’s Pure Land. However, the most unusual and characteristic feature of the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu are the twenty-four shikishi, ornate inscribed pieces of paper, attached to the screens – twelve of them are written in classical Chinese and refer to passages from Buddhist treatises, and twelve of them are written in native Japanese kana and refer to waka poems from imperial
            This paper examines the reflexive interplay between the textual and visual configurations
in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu and their significance for the transmission of knowledge,
particularly in terms of the development of bukkyo setsuwa. A detailed analysis of the contents of the paintings, Buddhist treatises, and waka poetry in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu emphasizes them as integral aspects of a Japanese aesthetic culture in which the accumulation of literary memories enhances the appreciation of fictional places as reality. My goal is to show that the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu acts as a means of understanding the matrix of symbolic images and spatial topoi in the configuration of authority, identity, and memory in medieval Japan.

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