4 Fundraising, Patronage, and the Hannyaji Manjuśrī: From Eison to Shinkū

In: From Outcasts to Emperors: Shingon Ritsu and the Mañjuśrī Cult in Medieval Japan


This chapter explores fundraising for the restoration of the Nara temple Hannyaji and the Mañjuśrī main icon for the temple. I suggest that the Hannyaji restoration provides a rich case study of the integrated fundraising, temple restoration, and cultic activities that were typical of the Saidaiji order. Focusing on Eison’s writings and a 1287 text by his disciple Shinkū (1229–1316) dedicating attendant statues, I analyze the “rhetoric of reluctance” within which their views on fundraising and their often-invoked status as a muen (unattached) group were expressed. In short, the rhetoric and actual activities related to the rhetoric show a common pattern in which Eison repeatedly refused patronage from elites, before attaining compromise or a consensus within his group that enabled him to ultimately accept that patronage. I argue that the need for this rhetoric was exacerbated by a tension between their status as precepts-keeping “reclusive monks” and as esoteric masters gaining increasing patronage from political elites for their ritual expertise.


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