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Article

Embodied Objects: Chūjōhime’s Hair Embroideries and the Transformation of the Female Body in Premodern Japan

Art Department, Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA
Academic Editor: Pascale F. Engelmajer
Religions 2021, 12(9), 773; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090773
Received: 1 July 2021 / Revised: 1 August 2021 / Accepted: 11 August 2021 / Published: 15 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives)
The female body in medieval Japanese Buddhist texts was characterized as unenlightened and inherently polluted. While previous scholarship has shown that female devotees did not simply accept and internalize this exclusionary ideology, we do not fully understand the many creative ways in which women sidestepped the constraints of this discourse. One such method Japanese women used to expand their presence and exhibit their agency was through the creation of hair-embroidered Buddhist images. Women bundled together and stitched their hair into the most sacred parts of the image—the deity’s hair or robes and Sanskrit seed-syllables—as a means to accrue merit for themselves or for a loved one. This paper focuses on a set of embroidered Japanese Buddhist images said to incorporate the hair of Chūjōhime (753?CE–781?CE), a legendary aristocratic woman credited with attaining rebirth in Amida’s Pure Land. Chūjōhime’s hair embroideries served to show that women’s bodies could be transformed into miraculous materiality through corporeal devotional practices and served as evidence that women were capable of achieving enlightenment. This paper emphasizes materiality over iconography and practice over doctrine to explore new insights into Buddhist gendered ritual practices and draws together critical themes of materiality and agency in ways that resonate across cultures and time periods. View Full-Text
Keywords: gender and religion; pure land Buddhism; textiles; Buddhist art; materiality; premodern Japan gender and religion; pure land Buddhism; textiles; Buddhist art; materiality; premodern Japan
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MDPI and ACS Style

Wargula, C. Embodied Objects: Chūjōhime’s Hair Embroideries and the Transformation of the Female Body in Premodern Japan. Religions 2021, 12, 773. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090773

AMA Style

Wargula C. Embodied Objects: Chūjōhime’s Hair Embroideries and the Transformation of the Female Body in Premodern Japan. Religions. 2021; 12(9):773. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090773

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wargula, Carolyn. 2021. "Embodied Objects: Chūjōhime’s Hair Embroideries and the Transformation of the Female Body in Premodern Japan" Religions 12, no. 9: 773. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090773

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