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Author: Zev Handel
In the more than 3,000 years since its invention, the Chinese script has been adapted many times to write languages other than Chinese, including Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Zhuang. In Sinography: The Borrowing and Adaptation of the Chinese Script, Zev Handel provides a comprehensive analysis of how the structural features of these languages constrained and motivated methods of script adaptation. This comparative study reveals the universal principles at work in the borrowing of logographic scripts. By analyzing and explaining these principles, Handel advances our understanding of how early writing systems have functioned and spread, providing a new framework that can be applied to the history of scripts beyond East Asia, such as Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform.
Nagasaki and the Asian Bullion Trade Networks
In World Trade Systems of the East and West, Geoffrey C. Gunn profiles Nagasaki's historic role in mediating the Japanese bullion trade, especially silver exchanged against Chinese and Vietnamese silk. Founded in 1571 as the terminal port of the Portuguese Macau ships, Nagasaki served as Japan's window to the world over long time and with the East-West trade carried on by the Dutch and, with even more vigor, by the Chinese junk trade. While the final expulsion of the Portuguese in 1646 characteristically defines the “closed” period of early modern Japanese history, the real trade seclusion policy, this work argues, only came into place one century later when the Shogunate firmly grasped the true impact of the bullion trade upon the national economy.
Volume Editors: Cátia A.P. Antunes and Amelia Polónia
Beyond Empires explores the complexity of empire building from the point of view of self-organized networks, rather than from the point of view of the central state. This focus takes readers into a world of cooperative strategies worldwide that emphasises the role played by individuals, rather than institutions, in the overseas expansion and consequent development of European empires. While unveiling the practices and mechanisms of cooperation between individuals, this volume show cases the role played by individuals for the creation, development and maintenance of self-organized networks in the Early Modern period. Applying new conceptual and theoretical inputs, this book values the contributions of different ‘worlds’, bringing to the fore the interactions of Europeans and non-Europeans, Christians and non-Christians, people living within-, on- or just outside the border of empire.
In: Copper in the Early Modern Sino-Japanese Trade

Abstract

A massive and heterogeneous textual corpus whose received version appears in the fifteenth-century Taoist Canon, the Great Peace Scripture (Taiping jing) is the ultimate crystallisation of a set of ideas and beliefs common to an undefined human group during the first centuries of our era. On the assumption that this source and fragments of Weft (wei) texts reflect ideologies located on the margins of official ideology but sharing with it a common, cultural worldview, this paper surveys a cluster of materials related to the themes of human impregnation, the symbolism of gestation, prenatal infancy, birth, and the imagery of layered cosmic cycles. Great Peace adepts imagined turning to their own advantage the dynamics of these cycles in order to initiate a process of ontological reversion to the pristine condition of prenatal infancy and thereby liberate themselves from the lethality of Yin/Yang binary time.


In: Transforming the Void
Author: Anna Andreeva

Abstract

This essay begins with the discussions of ideas about the origins of life that medieval Japanese Buddhist scholars based at elite esoteric temples and countryside were exploring during the late twelfth to fourteenth centuries. Although their main concern was a soteriological problem of how to achieve “enlightenment with this very body” (sokushin jōbutsu), their doctrinal discussions that are traceable through a variety of historical records had a much wider impact, affecting the sociocultural fabric of medieval and early modern Japan. To this effect, the paper traces two separate but conceptually related examples. One focuses on the ritualisation of the agency of the father and mother, and the other on the religio-soteriological ideas related to women’s bodies. Building on previous scholarship, this essay also suggests that the impact of medieval esoteric ideas regarding conception and gestation was not confined solely to the monastic circles: such ideas “travelled” among the different social strata of the Buddhist practitioners and their lay audience. 


In: Transforming the Void
Author: Kigensan Licha

Abstract

This paper introduces embryological discourses in early modern Sōtō Zen. It demonstrates that these discourses formed a vital and integral part of Sōtō teachings and concludes that embryological, or, more widely, reproductive and sexual notions, formed part of the late medieval and early modern Japanese Buddhist mainstream. To make these points, the paper draws on Sōtō kirigami, secret, initiatory documents passed from master to disciple. Based on these, the paper argues that Sōtō embryological discourse focused on two topics. Firstly, ontogenesis was conceptualised in terms drawn mainly from funerary contexts. This reflects the growing importance funerals occupied in early modern Zen. Secondly, Zen meditative practice itself was cast as a return to the origin qua womb in a network of associations uniting cosmogonic, doctrinal, soteriological, and sexual notions. Consequently, Zen monks came to understand Dharma transmission as reproductive in nature. The paper concludes that the embryological discourses found in Sōtō Zen are one example of how Zen monks developed their teachings in conversation with the intellectual climate of their times and suggests that to classify this conversation in terms of “orthodox” or “heterodox” doctrines or “elite” or “popular” practices diminishes its complexity and reflects academic biases rather than historical reality. 


In: Transforming the Void
Author: Gaynor Sekimori

Abstract

This chapter analyses the embryological and sexual symbolism found within the annual mountain-entry ritual of Haguro Shugendo called the Autumn Peak (Akinomine), using both written sources and ritual procedures, together with the results of participant observation over fifteen years. It looks first at the embryological symbolism associated with the attire and accoutrements of the practitioners (shugenja), based mainly on a collection of Haguro kirigami (memos of ritual instructions) called the Hōgushū, collected in the seventeenth century. It then studies the meaning of the womb, intercourse and conception, the stages of gestation, and birth as they are defined and practiced in the ritual procedures of the Akinomine. Finally, it examines the sexual symbolism associated with the sacred places visited by shugenja in the latter stages of the Akinomine. These findings demonstrate that Haguro Shugendo consciously employed the sexual imagery and symbolism found within wider medieval esoteric discourse in Japan and adapted it to both physical action and to a ritual imaginaire intended to make shugenja experience the passage through death and rebirth, which was a precondition of their realising buddhahood in that very time and place (sokushin jōbutsu).


In: Transforming the Void

Abstract

This chapter examines the ideological background of the sexual rites of early medieval Taoism. These rituals, which aimed to conceive perfect embryos through the supervised intercourse of initiated adepts, were linked to the notion of chosen or “seed-people.” Woven into a pervasive soteriological and eschatological complex of ideas, this notion of ritually produced electi remained fundamental to the formation and identity of early Taoist religious communities and sectarian organizations. The moral dualism of these groups placed sexuality and procreation in the service of eugenic ends.


In: Transforming the Void
In: Copper in the Early Modern Sino-Japanese Trade