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Open AccessArticle

Discourses on Religious Violence in Premodern Japan

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK
Religions 2018, 9(5), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050149
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 26 April 2018 / Accepted: 26 April 2018 / Published: 6 May 2018
This article asks what religious violence is and why it is relevant. It questions common assumptions by focusing on how monastic violence unfolded in premodern Japan. It argues that there was nothing that set this particular form of violence apart in terms of what the clerics fought for, their ideological justification, who fought, or how they fought. Although myths prevail on the largely fictive figure of the sōhei, or “monk-warriors,” closer scrutiny indicates that their depiction first emerged as a coherent literary concept in the early Tokugawa period. Regarding the ideological framework in which incidents of so-called monastic violence took place, the paper demonstrates that the individuals involved in such conflicts—including the clerics—cannot be dissociated from their own socio-historical context. This is because the medieval Japanese setting was based on rules of cooperation that also implied competition among various elites. The paper further complicates our understanding by showing that the central issue is not why specific violent events involving clerics occurred, but rather what constituted the mental framework—or mentalité—of the age, and how it allowed religious institutions to play such a prominent role. View Full-Text
Keywords: religious violence; monastic violence; premodern Japan; Japanese history; monk-warriors; sōhei; medieval Japanese society; history of mentalité; Buddhist clerics; Buddhism religious violence; monastic violence; premodern Japan; Japanese history; monk-warriors; sōhei; medieval Japanese society; history of mentalité; Buddhist clerics; Buddhism
MDPI and ACS Style

Adolphson, M. Discourses on Religious Violence in Premodern Japan. Religions 2018, 9, 149.

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