George Keyworth will present his paper, "Seeing China through the Japanese Looking Glass: Some Remarks about Japanese Pilgrims in Medieval China" (see abstract below).
Monday, December 10, 2007 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
At Kyodai Kaikan, Room 217
Sponsored by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies
Few tropes or buzzwords figure more prominently in the labyrinth of narratives about East Asian culture as that of transmission. Received knowledge tells us that Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, aspects of Hinduism, Shamanism, and many more '-isms' that belie definition were all transmitted to Japan where they interacted with so-called indigenous Japanese culture. China as the benefactor and Japan as beneficiary is the myth most often encountered in print, classrooms, or on holiday nearly anywhere in contemporary East Asia. The case of Buddhism is usually presented as proof positive that Japan can be viewed as a cultural and historical Shosoin. Japan, like Tibet, is a veritable repository of now lostand therefore preciousChinese, Indian, Central Asian, and sometimes Korean, Buddhist practices and knowledge that have escaped the ravages of time, wars, and, of course, erroneous edicts within the Japanese archipelago. Yet when we peer into the diaries, travelogues, scriptural commentaries, engi, hagiographies, and biographies that discuss Japanese pilgrims in China, we can clearly see that Japanese pilgrims were at least as interested in responding to indigenous concerns and questions (not always religious or spiritual in nature) as they were in learning about what they could bring back from the continent. This talk explores both some of the more profound cultural, religious, and literary developments brought back to Japan by monk-pilgrims including Chonen, Jakusho, Jojin, Yosai, Dogen, and Chogen, as well as the deep reticence revealed in the aforementioned accounts about what they encountered on the continent. Specifically, how did members of the clergy from the Shingon, Tendai, and Nara schools, who went looking to resolve pressing doubts about monastic precepts and which approach to Esoteric Buddhism was most efficacious, react when, in response to their queries, they were instead introduced to the cult of the Arhats, the Zen patriarchs, new Tantras and spurious sūtras, tea, landscape paintings, and poetry composition?
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