The body reflects the various timescales of human existence, such as physical processes and cosmological patterns.
This paper seeks to demonstrate conceptualizations of the female body in medieval Japan, using source texts specifically concerned with menstruation. Its investigative use of medical, religious and literary sources serves to address a variety of the dimensions of human existence. Medical writings such as the 14th century Man‘anpō and the Toni‘shō, both compiled by the monk physician Kajiwara Shōzen, deal with the female cycle as a physical phenomenon in correlation with natural cyclical patterns. The female cycle is not only connected to questions of reproduction and sexuality, but also to larger scale cosmological time frames, such as the cycle of the moon or the tides. Instructions given for the treatment of irregularities, along with preventive measures, take into consideration the large-scale time frame in resonance with the micro-level of the body.
Medical knowledge is complemented by religious texts, such as the Blood Bowl Sutra (Ketsubonkyō), that contextualize the perception of the female body within a religious dimension. The Buddhist worldview that permeates medical and literary texts of this era is also reflected in ideas about the female body. The varying physical, cosmological and religious chronomorphologies of the body reflect a multiplicity of time frames in medieval Japan.
The present paper explores the social lives of European timepieces as a particular set of objects in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Japan, when the archipelago first encountered the “Southern Barbarians” from Portugal and Spain. Rather than viewing them solely as instruments of time measurement or as decorative objects, I discuss clocks as actors that moved within networks of exchange primarily between Europe and Japan, but also, significantly, within East Asia and Japan itself. Along their trajectory, these devices assumed shifting and at times contradictory meanings for various actors; this is particularly true in view of the fundamental clash between European and Japanese systems of time-reckoning, which essentially rendered early European-style mechanical clocks ‘timeless’ in Japan, with its equinoctial system of variable hours. For Jesuit missionaries and foreign emissaries who brought these early devices to Japan, they were timekeepers, objects of ecclesiastical use, paragons of European ingenuity, and above all diplomatic tools that granted access and established connections with the Japanese ruling elite. For the Japanese, by contrast, these global objects assumed meaning within their highly developed local gift-culture as desirable novelty items, particularly within the socially volatile environment of the unification of the country under Tokugawa control. My contention is that these microhistories of exchange help us understand why mechanical clocks did not have the same ‘revolutionary’ effect on time-reckoning in Japan as they did in Europe; the social lives of these objects strikingly illustrate the power imbalances in diplomatic negotiations that made Japan impervious to coercion by the European powers.
The title is lifted from an essay by J. T. Fraser in his book Time and Time Again (2007). It conveys Fraser’s conviction, a conviction shared here, that understanding time and reality requires us to redirect our thinking process. Plato describes a path out of the dark cave of confusion into the realm of truth and light, that is, from time towards the timeless. But we should “reverse course” along this path and move from the timeless into the complexity of time. Time is not one thing foundational to reality; reality rather is a series of temporal levels developed through evolution and related in a nested hierarchy driven by conflict and towards increasing complexity. This theory makes possible critical and fruitful reflection on issues like entropy, indeterminacy, and mind/body dualism. It entails embracing our position as knowers in time and the complexity of truth as temporal rather than timeless.
Most studies on time in the premodern Islamic world have focused on philosophical and theological aspects of time. The present article concentrates on time practices in daily life. Iconic for Muslim time practices are the five daily prayers, the weekly Friday prayer, the yearly fasting in the month of Ramaḍān, and the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. They all have the character of a time-out from everyday routine and are well characterized by the term “ritual time.” For work, business and administration, the day and night are divided into twelve hours each, the seasonal hours. It is appropriate to call that “civil time.” Besides these two forms of time practices, a third is based on astrological concepts. The daily changing aspects which the moon forms with the sun and the planets are taken as favorable or unfavorable signs for particular actions, and enabled the individual to organize his or her life in accordance with the heavenly bodies. It seems apt to call that “cosmic time.”