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A remarkable book. Donald McCallum gives the reader a uniquely valuable perspective on events in 7th-century Japan through archaeological and textual examinations of the "Four Great Temples": Asukadera, Kudara Oodera, Kawaradera, and Yakushiji. Particularly noteworthy are 1) McCallum's summation of historical research previously available only in Japanese, which provides contrast and clarity to his own conclusions, and 2) his narrative structure, which makes the book quite exciting at times to read -- not bad for what is nonetheless a comprehensive work about temple archaeology. I will also add to being personally pleased there was a substantial discussion regarding Kanzeonji, one of Japan's most historically significant temples, located right here in Dazaifu. Overall, The Four Great Temples is both an in-depth introduction to these Buddhist temples and a reminder (if one is needed) that archaeology is the indispensable servant of history.
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