Asuka Period (552-645)
Buddhism reached Japan in the mid-sixth century. From its origins in India roughly one thousand years earlier, the doctrine had passed through Central Asia into China before crossing to Japan by way of the Korean peninsula. Lingering long in the various countries through which it made its way, Buddhism carried with it to Japan an accumulation of local crafts and artistic traditions from the various far-flung cultures of Asia. Not surprisingly, the decorative motifs of the Buddhist arts also reveal the influence of the cultures and geographic areas in which the religion flourished before reaching Japan.
During the Asuka period, Buddhism won numerous devout adherents in Japan, the most eminent of whom was Shōtoku Taishi, prince-regent during the reign of the empress Suiko ( 592-628). Enthusiastically encouraged by the court, the religion flourished in the Yamato plain around what is today the city of Nara. The comparatively primitive Japanese of the time must have been deeply impressed with the glorious SuiT'ang continental culture that came to Japan in the wake of Buddhism, for in a rather short time the art, thinking, and social structure of the Yamato area was totally remodeled along Chinese lines. The greatest remaining monument of the new Japanese culture of the Asuka period is the Hōryū-ji temple and monastery built by Suiko and Shūtoku Taishi early in the seventh century. The patterns that are still to be seen on the sculpture and other arts in the temple and in the architectural details of the main hall, the interior gate, the