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Flowers of the Four Seasons: Ten Centuries of Art from the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture

Conversation: Willa and George Tanabe on Japanese Religious Art


October 3, 2010; 86 Minutes; Audio

Two noted scholars examine significant pieces of Japanese Buddhist art featured in the exhibition through the lens of both religious studies and art history. Engaging each other in discussion about diverse works—including painted and sculptural images of the bodhisattva Jizo, a humorous Zen monk in a tree, and an exquisite Nyoirin Kannon—George and Willa Tanabe plan a complementary, occasionally contentious, disquisition on the backgrounds, styles, and meanings of Japanese religious art.

George Tanabe is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religion at the University of Hawai’i. He has written widely on Japanese religion, including co-authoring, with Ian Reader, Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. He also edits several important series on Japanese tradition and Buddhism.

Willa Tanabe, former Dean of the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies, is Professor Emerita in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawai’i. She has published extensively on images connected to the Lotus Sutra and has also curated exhibitions of woodblock prints, Japanese embroidery, and the sacred art of Mt. Kōya. The Tanabes are currently working on a guidebook to all of the Japanese Buddhist temples in Hawai’i.