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9 “Human Yellow” and Magical Power in Japanese Medieval Tantrism and Culture

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... The shape of this mysterious "human-yellow" was said to resemble a jewel or a relic. These two objects, in turn, were interpreted as the constitutive elements of the human as well as the cosmic body (Trenson 2012, p. 113;Iyanaga 2016). ...
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The focus of this Special Issue is on medieval Japanese religion. Although Kamakura “new” Buddhist schools are usually taken as unquestioned landmarks of the medieval religious landscape, it is necessary to add complexity to this static picture in order to grasp the dynamic and hybrid character of the religious practices and theories that were produced during this historical period. This Special Issue will shed light on the diversity of medieval Japanese religion by adopting a wide range of analytical approaches, encompassing various fields of knowledge such as history, philosophy, materiality, literature, medical studies, and body theories. Its purpose is to expand the interpretative boundaries of medieval Japanese religion beyond Buddhism by emphasizing the importance of mountain asceticism (Shugendō), Yin and Yang (Onmyōdō) rituals, medical and soteriological practices, combinatory paradigms between local gods and Buddhist deities (medieval Shintō), hagiographies, religious cartography, conflations between performative arts and medieval Shintō mythologies, and material culture. This issue will foster scholarly comprehension of medieval Japanese religion as a growing network of heterogeneous religious traditions in permanent dialogue and reciprocal transformation. While there is a moderate amount of works that address some of the aspects described above, there is yet no publication attempting to embrace all these interrelated elements within a single volume. The present issue will attempt to make up for this lack. At the same time, it will provide a crucial contribution to the broad field of premodern Japanese religions, demonstrating the inadequacy of a rigid interpretative approach based on sectarian divisions and doctrinal separation. Our project underlines the hermeneutical importance of developing a polyphonic vision of the multifarious reality that lies at the core of medieval Japanese religion.
... 2 Nobumi Iyanaga has conducted extensive research on Shinjō and Yūkai. See, in particular, Iyanaga (2004Iyanaga ( , 2010Iyanaga ( , 2018, and, in English, Iyanaga (2011Iyanaga ( , 2015. See also Köck (2000Köck ( , 2009. ...
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Traditional historiography of Japanese Buddhism presents the Muromachi period as an era of triumph for Zen, and of decline for the previous near-hegemony of Esoteric Buddhism. However, for the Shingon school, the period from the late Middle Ages to early Edo period was rather a phase of expansion, especially in the more remote locales of Eastern Japan. Focusing on a text authored during the fifteenth century, this article will analyze how this idea of the outskirts or periphery was integrated with the process of creation of orthodoxy in local Shingon temples. In doing so, it will shed new light not only on the evolution, but also on the epistemological role of discourse relating to heresy, and on their role in the legitimation of monastic lineages.
... The Kakuzenshō, for example, describes the transmission of a jewel, round, black, and measuring three sun 寸 (around 9 cm) that was made by combining different fragrances, medicines, silver, and gold into a ball, with a relic inside; this object was then surrounded by an ox jewel, a deer jewel, a crystal, and other pearls (dnbz 51: 2458a). lomi: heian-period therapeutics | 259 and symbolizes a key vital principle shared by different creatures (Iyanaga 2015). The monk Ningai 仁海 (951-1046) explains that just as oxen have "ox yellow" and deer have "deer yellow," so humans have "human yellow" (t 2536, 79.500c12). ...
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This article addresses the issue of sacred materiality by exploring the production, extraction, and circulation of ox bezoars in the late Heian period. Bezoar, a highly-valued concretion found in the stomachs of bovines, was renowned for its healing properties and employed by Daigoji ritualists as part of safe childbirth practices. Although the bezoar was empowered by Buddhist monks before its therapeutic applications, I suggest that its efficacy is only in part the result of empowerment. The article thus analyzes the ritual, medical, symbolic, social, and organic dimensions of ox bezoars, and assesses them against the broader intellectual context out of which the practice emerged. In so doing, I wish to draw attention to those characteristics that made bezoars uniquely effective in granting a safe and easy parturition. Ultimately, the article also aims at taking this practice as an occasion to probe alternative ways in which materials employed for healing purposes in premodern Japanese Buddhist rituals were conceptualized, thought to be efficacious, and eventually adopted for specific therapeutic purposes.
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This chapter considers the process and impact of adopting South and East Asian embryological notions and descriptions of fetal life into the cosmological accounts and ritual sources from early and medieval Japan. A plethora of different terms describing the stages of a fetus developing in the mother’s womb was known in both India and China, where they came to be adopted in the earliest medical or religious writings, produced by Buddhists, Daoists, and medical practitioners. In Japan, these terms were transmitted via the Buddhist, medical, and literary sources arriving from Sui and Tang China and became adopted into a variety of cosmological, medical, and religious sources produced by Japanese historical actors. Of particular importance were the rituals practiced in the esoteric temple milieu of the Tendai, Shingon, and Zen schools in medieval Japan, where the embryological concepts were used to introduce new ways of soteriological thinking and action.
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The intellectual links between medieval esoteric temples and localized Shingon movements are still far from being well understood. Although a part of education at major monastic complexes such as Daigoji and Mt. Kōya, transmissions of esoteric theories were not uniform and varied depending on their recipients’ social status. A comparative reading of the Yugikyō transmissions imparted by the abbot Jikken of Kongōōin to his official disciple Dōhan and a lesser-known semi-itinerant priest, Rendōbō Hōkyō, from a local training hall at Mt. Miwa in Nara Prefecture shows that during the late twelfth to fourteenth centuries non-elite practitioners in medieval Japan, such as those associated with the local Miwa lineage, did not simply study the Yugikyō teachings but were actively involved in their dissemination. They used theories associated with this sutra as key parts of their own religious capital and transported them from large esoteric temples further afield to Japan’s countryside.
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