Faces of Faith: Early Japanese Religious Statuary at the Sainsbury Centre

18 June – 3 October 2021

Female Shinto Deity
[Sainsbury Centre Collection, UEA 1146]

It is said that 1,400 years ago a giant of Japanese history passed away, leaving behind a legacy which defined the formation of a nation. In bringing Buddhism to the Japanese courts, Prince Regent Shōtoku Taishi came to power through his marriages to the daughters of the Empress Suiko and ushered in a new era of faith, politics and artistic expression which laid the foundation for the nation state.

Now, as museums across Japan commemorate this anniversary, the Sainsbury Centre presents its fascinating collection of rare Buddhist and Shinto artefacts to celebrate the UK-Japan season of culture. We invite you to step into this time of monumental change in East Asia, centred around the exceptional Kamakura period statue, the Female Shinto Deity.

Keen to learn more? Explore the impact of Prince Shōtoku on politics, history and religion in his time:

Who is our Female Shinto Deity?

Understanding the past through material objects is a challenge. Here is what we know about who our Female Shinto Deity might have been.

Empress Suiko (554-628), to whom Prince Shōtoku was regent.
[Tosa Mitsuyoshi – The Japanese book “The Prince Shotoku exhibition (聖徳太子展)”, NHK (NHKプロモーション), 2001]
Shōtoku Taishi and his sons
[Cleveland Museum of Art 1964.278]

The Face of Change: Prince Shōtoku Taishi 1,400 Years On

Learn more about the prince of legend inspiring exhibitions across Japan this year.

Wooden statue of Shōtoku Taishi
[British Museum 35963001, reg. no. 1944,1019.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum]
Head of a male Shinto Deity
[Sainsbury Centre Collection, UEA 956]

Before and After Buddhism

Before Buddhism arrived in Japan, local deities were worshipped by warlords and locals alike. See how the two interacted to create a distinct form of Japanese Buddhism.

Jizo Bosatsu Buddha (Kamakura Period)
[Sainsbury Centre Collection, UEA 1255]

Come visit

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

University of East Anglia,
Norfolk Road,
Norwich NR4 7TJ

Box office Monday – Friday 9am-5pm
T: 01603 593199

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