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David Quinter

In From Outcasts to Emperors, David Quinter illuminates the Shingon Ritsu movement founded by the charismatic monk Eison (1201–90) at Saidaiji in Nara, Japan. The book’s focus on Eison and his disciples’ involvement in the cult of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva reveals their innovative synthesis of Shingon esotericism, Buddhist discipline (Ritsu; Sk. vinaya), icon and temple construction, and social welfare activities as the cult embraced a spectrum of supporters, from outcasts to warrior and imperial rulers. In so doing, the book redresses typical portrayals of “Kamakura Buddhism” that cast Eison and other Nara Buddhist leaders merely as conservative reformers, rather than creative innovators, amid the dynamic religious and social changes of medieval Japan.

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Edited by Matthias Bley, Nikolas Jaspert and Stefan Köck

While comparative studies on purity and impurity presented in the last decades have mostly concentrated on the ancient world or on modern developments, this volume focusses the hitherto comparatively neglected period between ca. 300 and 1600 c. E. The collection is innovative because it not only combines papers on both European and Asian cultures but also considers a wide variety of religions and confessions. The articles are written by leading experts in the field and are presented in six systematic sections. This analytical categorization facilitates understanding the functional spectrum that the binomial purity and impurity could cover in past societies. The volume thus presents an in-depth comparative analysis of a category of paramount importance for interfaith relations and processes of transfer.

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Joshua Esler

Abstract

This paper explores the way in which the Hong Kong Christian education system, inherited from the British, has influenced certain Chinese practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism in the territory to follow a ‘Protestantised’ form of Tibetan Buddhism. This paper shows how such practitioners often reject a pragmatic approach to Tibetan Buddhism followed by other Chinese practitioners in Hong Kong, the latter of whom may bring ‘this worldly’ concerns to various deities, bodhisattvas and lamas. Arguing from an ‘alternative’ position on postcolonial and subaltern studies, this paper seeks to show how these Protestantised practitioners, while drawing from a modernist Christian perspective on Tibetan Buddhism, also appropriate the ‘rationalising’ aspects of their Christian education as well as Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal arguments to undermine this perspective. By mimicking the discourse of their Christian education, appropriating it to ‘prove’ the truth of Tibetan Buddhism, and at times undermining the logic of this discourse itself, such practitioners creatively ‘talk back.’

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Christopher Hartney

Abstract

From 1926, Caodaism (Đạo Cao Đài) has flourished as the centre of new religious development in Vietnam. Its vast and complex syncretic theology continues to serve as a meeting ground between an East Asian tradition revivified (animism, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship) and a colonialist modernity localised (Catholicism, French Masonry, Theosophy, and Spiritualism). One of the significant paradigms through which this sacred re-narration of Vietnamese religious history can be conceptualised is through the great mural of the religion. Created to adorn the vestibule of every temple to God, the mural contains three historical figures that represent in essence the wider Caodaist religious and cultural project. In this chapter I examine in detail the symbolic relevance of these figures, Vietnamese poet and seer Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm [1491-1585], leader of the Chinese nationalist revolution Dr Sun Yat Sen [1866-1925], and French author Victor Hugo [1802-1885]. Separately they signify certain aspects of the modernist hope of those Vietnamese who came to worship them as saints of the new faith. Together in one mural, this chapter will reveal how these figures additionally symbolise a very specific global, modernist, and millenarian hope.

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Laurens de Rooij

Abstract

The Country of Malaysia is not only diverse in culture and during its history, but also contains a plurality of active religious traditions. This unique lifestyle has affected modernizing transformations during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The influence of the minority religions on economic policy is a notable example. The socio-religious climate of Malaysia and its various ethnic groups have all contributed to economic and in turn political developments within the nation. This paper will explore the links of how the pluralist environment of the country has directly affected and continues to shape the social, economic, political discourse of the country. Subtle elements such as constitutional preference over one religion and the various economic policies show that the religious pluralism of Malaysia and globalising factors have had wide ranging influences on the country and its people. As such this paper will argue that in the development of Malaysia as a nation its many religious traditions have had a role to play. With arguably the minority religions being a more dominant factor that the majority Muslim community. These religions have interacted and influenced each other in developing Malaysian identity-politics and economic policy for its contemporary citizens.

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Lawrence C. Reardon

Abstract

During the first three decades of the People’s Republic, Communist Party elites pursued a revolutionary political, economic, and social paradigm, whose long-term goal was to develop a strong national security, ensure prosperity, and strengthen the Party’s comprehensive control of the state. Elites eliminated all foreign religious connections, which were replaced with Party-approved religious organizations. The adoption of the techno-economic paradigm in the 1980s created high economic growth rates as well as widespread corruption that threatened Party’s legitimacy. In response, the Communist Party adapted the revolutionary social paradigm and initiated a moral re-armament campaign. Elites used traditional religions and beliefs to strengthen moral standards and to supplement the state’s social welfare role. Elites however were less trusting of foreign religions, because of their complicated history, their continued foreign connections, and their non-sanctioned religious practices. As long as elites retain the revolutionary social paradigm and its emphasis on Party primacy, elites will continue to favour traditional religions and beliefs while discriminating against foreign religions and heterodox religious movements.

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David W. Kim

Abstract

The Korean peninsula of Northeast Asia was not well known to the powers and authorities of Western countries in the nineteenth century, for the royal family and their government of the Chosŏn dynasty (empire of Korea) had maintained an anti-western policy. The national policy did not last a long time; rather the western civilization of advanced science, technology, literature, and culture flowed into this oriental society, where there was a strong influence of Confucianism. Although Buddhist monks were in Korea, it was not the national religion. Instead, various activities of shamanism were performed in the life and culture of the Korean people. Christianity was a new religion to the local people in the nineteenth century. Then, how did the historical development of the Western religion take place in Korea? Was it part of the nineteenth century colonialism? Which country had the greatest effect on the early Korean Protestant movement? How did the Korean scripture (Sǒnggyo) emerge and affect the widespread use of Han’gŭl language in the society? This paper not only demonstrates the unique impact of a Scottish man over the early history of Korean Christianity and the development of Korean literature in 1870s-1890s, but also argues that the Korean diaspora in Manchuria under the principle of the ‘fulfilment theology’ performed as the vessel of John Ross for the modernization of the Hermit Kingdom.

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Kevin N. Cawley

Abstract

In East Asia, the religious and intellectual history of women has been less seriously dealt with compared to that of men. In Korea, the focus has been most often on elite men who reinforced Confucian patriarchal ideals. Unfortunately, the Confucian hierarchy excluded women from the intellectual world and reinforced inequality and double standards at all levels. This paper gives a voice to the marginalised women who converted to Catholicism during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, but who have, once more, been overlooked at the expense of elite men. It will firstly outline how Confucian constructions of “good” women subjugated and delimited their possibilities vis-à-vis men. By engaging with contemporary critical theory, it articulates how marginalised women, who took the lead in spreading the Catholic faith, risking, and often losing their lives in doing so, unsettled Confucian constructions as they endeavoured to realise a new value system based on the Christian teaching of equality: this was considered “dangerous knowledge,” and seen as a threat to the state. This study focuses on two women in particular: Colombe Kang Wansuk (1760-1801) and Luthgarde Yi Suni (1781?-1802), who show us various ways in which Catholicism was transforming the lives of women, dissolving rigid binary notions of gender, allowing everyone to participate in the intellectual and spiritual world through the use of Han’gŭl, as well as developing a new religious modus vivendi for women and men.

Series:

David Quinter

Abstract

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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David Quinter

Abstract

This chapter examines a text dated 1269/8/25 and attributed to Eison that purports to record a direct esoteric transmission from Mañjuśrī to Eison to Shinkū. This chapter shows, however, that the text’s provenance is more complex than previously acknowledged. I argue that to evaluate the text, we must consider both the influence from hagiographical accounts of the Shingon-Kegon monk Myōe (1173-1232) and an increasing esotericization of the Saidaiji order after Eison’s death in 1290. I further suggest that Eison’s reputed 1269 transmission served to legitimize the transition from Eison to Shinkū and successive Saidaiji elders as well as the very relationship between Shingon and Ritsu in the order. By analyzing these developments alongside the related synthesis of esoteric and exoteric precept traditions in fourteenth-century Myōe-lineage transmission texts, this chapter underscores how dream-visions legitimized varied exoteric-esoteric formulations of medieval Nara monastics, including those of later followers of Eison and Myōe.