Akiko Walley specializes in Japanese Buddhist art of the seventh and eighth centuries. Focusing on the incipient period of the religion, her research aims to more precisely articulate the process in which a foreign idea or belief system takes root in a community.
Akiko Walley received her PhD in Art History in 2009 from Harvard University. She specializes in Japanese Buddhist art of the seventh and eighth centuries. Buddhism was introduced to Japan through the kingdoms on the Korean peninsula in the first half of the sixth century and eventually flourished as a core belief system in Japan; Buddhism is the bedrock of every aspect of Japanese lives even today. Walley focuses on the incipient period of Japanese Buddhism to reconsider the idea of “transmission” (denrai). Her current book-length project investigates early Buddhist relic devotion in Japan in a trans-Asian context, focusing on the performative nature of Buddhist reliquaries. Walley also has secondary and tertiary research interests in topics such as: Edo-period (1615-1868) literati painting; Buddhist scriptures and the materiality of East Asian calligraphy; Edo-period luxurious prints (surimono); Contemporary prints, particularly by Kusama Yayoi; and manga modes of expression and the impact of onomatopoeia on animation sound effects.
Walley teaches a wide range of courses on Japanese art from prehistoric to contemporary times. Recent upper-division themed courses she has offered include: 6th-8th Century East Asian Buddhist Networks; Nirvana; Japanese Art and Christianity; Eccentrics in Japanese Art; Global Japan; War and Japanese Art; Contemporary Japanese Prints; and History of Manga. She has advised graduate students interested in an array of topics from Heian-period Buddhist sculpture, early modern woodblock prints and painting, underground Christian artifacts, to Araki Nobuyoshi’s photography.
Selected Works/Current Projects
Self-Fulfilling Prophesy: Transforming Relics and the Mechanism of Salvation in Early Japanese Reliquaries, monograph in progress.
Constructing the Dharma King: The Hōryūji Shaka Triad and the Birth of the Prince Shōtoku Cult, Japanese Visual Culture Series, vol. 15 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
“Instant Bliss: The Enactment of Miraculous Appearance of Relics in the Hōryūji Nested Reliquary Set,” Ars Orientalis 46 (2016): 136-172.
“Figuring Salvation: The Hōryūji Clay Sūtra Tableaux,” Archives of Asian Art 64, no. 2 (2014): 119-163.
“Inscribing and Ascribing Merit: Buddhist Vows and the Hōryūji Shaka Triad,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 73, no. 2 (2013): 299-337.
“Flowers of Compassion: Tamamushi Shrine and the Nature of Devotion in Seventh-century Japan,” Artibus Asiae 72, no. 2 (2012): 265-322.