Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 44157

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
Interests: East Asian Buddhism; Japanese religion; Chan/Zen; esoteric Buddhism

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nagoya City University, Nagoya, 467-8601 Aichi, Japan
Interests: Japanese religion; Shugendō

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The understanding of medieval Japanese Buddhism has long been dominated by a retrospective view that sees the Kamakura and Muromachi period as marked by the apparition and development of “new” Buddhist schools (Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren).

The medieval period, however, is characterized by thorough integration of Buddhism—and in particular esoteric Buddhism (Shingon and Tendai)—with local cults and the emergence of new religious trends (“Shintō,” Shugendō, and Onmyōdō). Thus, Buddhism must be replaced in the broader context of medieval Japanese religion, with an equal attention paid to peripheral regions (in particular Tōhoku and Kyūshū). 

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 one with other and reciprocal transformation.

While there is a moderate number of works that address some of the aspects described above, there is as 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 lays at the core of medieval Japanese religion.

Prof. Dr. Bernard Faure
Dr. Andrea Castiglioni
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • local deities
  • asceticism
  • Onmyōdō
  • Shugendō
  • material culture
  • religious cartography
  • religious confraternities
  • healing rituals
  • exorcisms
  • medical practices
  • performative arts
  • Buddhist tales
  • maṇḍala
  • statuary
  • esoteric Buddhism
  • talismans
  • relics and reliquaries

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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23 pages, 715 KiB  
Editorial
Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion
by Bernard R. Faure and Andrea Castiglioni
Religions 2022, 13(10), 894; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100894 - 23 Sep 2022
Viewed by 2952
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

16 pages, 794 KiB  
Article
Like a Fierce God: Reenvisioning the Enemy in the Legend of Empress Jingū in the Wake of the Mongol Invasions
by Emily B. Simpson
Religions 2022, 13(8), 695; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080695 - 29 Jul 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1822
Abstract
The legend of Empress Jingū’s conquest of the Korean peninsula is well-known for its many divine elements. However, the legend’s successful conquest of a foreign enemy has also been key to its longevity. In particular, the Mongol Invasions of the late thirteenth century [...] Read more.
The legend of Empress Jingū’s conquest of the Korean peninsula is well-known for its many divine elements. However, the legend’s successful conquest of a foreign enemy has also been key to its longevity. In particular, the Mongol Invasions of the late thirteenth century inspired a renaissance of the Jingū legend in the fourteenth, with the addition of several new motifs. One such motif is Jinrin, a red demon with multiple heads and immense power from the continent who threatens Japan before being slain by Jingū’s husband Emperor Chūai. In this paper, I argue that the Jinrin motif plays an important role in reenvisioning Jingū’s conquest as a war against evil. Though Jinrin may have antecedents in the Buddhist Canon and Japanese mythology, this “fierce god” emerges in the medieval Hachiman tradition in origin narratives and later in regional kagura. Jinrin serves as a visual representation of the threat of the Korean kingdoms and an opportunity for Chūai’s heroism and honorable death, creating a clear juxtaposition between a depraved Korean peninsula and an ethical Japan. Thus, Jinrin provides a vibrant example of how the belief in Japan as land of the gods (shinkoku shisō) galvanized a reinterpretation of Japan, its world, and its history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
25 pages, 2125 KiB  
Article
Japan’s Forgotten God: Jūzenji in Medieval Texts and the Visual Arts
by Or Porath
Religions 2022, 13(8), 693; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080693 - 28 Jul 2022
Viewed by 4773
Abstract
This study examines Jūzenji 十禅師, a medieval god worshiped within the Sannō cult at Hie Shrine during the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. The article demonstrates that Tendai thinkers promoted Jūzenji to a supreme ontological status since his liminal and ambivalent character afforded him [...] Read more.
This study examines Jūzenji 十禅師, a medieval god worshiped within the Sannō cult at Hie Shrine during the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. The article demonstrates that Tendai thinkers promoted Jūzenji to a supreme ontological status since his liminal and ambivalent character afforded him the unique role of redirecting the sinful desires of the flesh into awakening. Three different figures promoted Jūzenji. First, the Tendai abbot Jien 慈円 (1155–1255) constructed ritual programs that raised Jūzenji to the apogee of the Sannō Shintō pantheon, which combined with engi literature concerning Jien’s sexuality, permitted the re-envisioning of Jūzenji as a libidinal god. Second, the preceptors of Mt. Hiei (kaike 戒家) transformed Jūzenji into an embodiment of the precepts, which enabled Jūzenji to encapsulate morality and thereby render sexual sins null. Third, Tendai Sannō Shintō theologians (kike 記家) interweaved Jūzenji with the doctrine of the threefold truth (santai 三諦), which became the basis of the Taimitsu sexual initiation known as Chigo Kanjō 児灌頂. As such, this article offers an important case study whereby a subsidiary god outshines its own godhead for the purpose of legitimating sexuality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
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16 pages, 1155 KiB  
Article
The Catechism of the Gods: Kōyasan’s Medieval Buddhist Doctrinal Debates, Dōhan, and Kami Worship
by Elizabeth Tinsley
Religions 2022, 13(7), 586; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070586 - 24 Jun 2022
Viewed by 1719
Abstract
A survey of the history of medieval Kōyasan, an important mountain-based headquarters for esoteric Shingon Buddhism since the early ninth century, cannot omit significant developments in the worship of kami (tutelary and ancestral gods) from the end of the Heian period (794–1185) to [...] Read more.
A survey of the history of medieval Kōyasan, an important mountain-based headquarters for esoteric Shingon Buddhism since the early ninth century, cannot omit significant developments in the worship of kami (tutelary and ancestral gods) from the end of the Heian period (794–1185) to the Muromachi period (1333–1573). A fundamental aspect of kami worship at Kōyasan was the regular offering to the kami (shinbōraku 神法楽) of mondō-kō 問答講 (catechism/dialogue form, or ‘question and answer’ ‘lectures’) and rongi (debate examinations in the form of mondō). The relationship between Buddhist scholarship and kami worship has not been fully elucidated and such will enrich understanding of both subjects. The identities and meanings of the two oldest kami enshrined at Kōyasan, Niu Myōjin 丹生明神 (also called Niutsuhime) and Kariba Myōjin 狩場明神 (also called Kōya Myōjin), were delineated in texts produced by scholar monks (gakuryo 学侶) during a period when the debates were re-systematized after a period of sporadicity and decline, so the precise functions of this cinnabar goddess and hunter god in the related ritual offerings deserve attention. In this paper I examine ideas about the Kōyasan kami that can be found, specifically, in the institution and development of these mondō and rongi 論義. Placing them in this context yields new information, and offers new methods of understanding of not only related textual materials, but also of the icons used in the debates, and the related major ceremonies (hōe 法会) and individual ritual practices (gyōbō 行法) that were involved. Given that the candidates of a major ritual debate examination—to be discussed—that has been practiced from the Muromachi period up to the present day are said to ‘represent’ kami, and are even referred to by the names of kami, the history of the precise relationship between the kami and the debates invites more detailed explanation that has so far been largely lacking in the scholarship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
25 pages, 7945 KiB  
Article
The Elderly Nun, the Rain-Treasure Child, and the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel: Visualizing Buddhist Networks at the Grand Shrine of Ise
by Talia J. Andrei
Religions 2022, 13(7), 585; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070585 - 23 Jun 2022
Viewed by 2721
Abstract
The nunnery Keikōin was a powerful Buddhist institution, famous in late-medieval Japanese history for its vigorous and successful fundraising campaigns on behalf of the Grand Shrine of Ise. Much is known about the nuns’ fundraising activities, but very little is known about their [...] Read more.
The nunnery Keikōin was a powerful Buddhist institution, famous in late-medieval Japanese history for its vigorous and successful fundraising campaigns on behalf of the Grand Shrine of Ise. Much is known about the nuns’ fundraising activities, but very little is known about their religious practice. A recently discovered painting, I believe, sheds some light on this long-standing question. It depicts an elderly nun invoking the deity Uhō Dōji in the form enshrined at Kongōshōji, a temple situated at the top of Asama Mountain, to the east of Ise’s Inner Shrine. Based on several of the iconographic elements, I argue the nun portrayed in the painting is from Keikōin and that she is shown engaging in esoteric Buddhist practices related to those carried out at Kongōshōji. Comparative analysis with other paintings and the historical record has, moreover, led me to propose that the Keikōin nuns performed these esoteric practices at Ise’s Kora no tachi, the hall where young shrine maidens prepared the daily food offerings for Ise’s deities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
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24 pages, 8894 KiB  
Article
Gagaku in Medieval Japanese Religion
by Fabio Rambelli
Religions 2022, 13(7), 582; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070582 - 22 Jun 2022
Viewed by 3755
Abstract
Contrary to the widespread assumption in the study of Japanese religions that Kagura is historically the main genre of performing arts at Shintō festivals, something dating back to the beginning of Japanese history, in this article I focus instead on Gagaku (and its [...] Read more.
Contrary to the widespread assumption in the study of Japanese religions that Kagura is historically the main genre of performing arts at Shintō festivals, something dating back to the beginning of Japanese history, in this article I focus instead on Gagaku (and its Bugaku dance repertory) as a central component of rituals, ceremonies, and festivals not only at the imperial court but also and especially at many temples and shrines across the country. While Gagaku and Bugaku were deeply rooted in the Kansai area, with guilds of hereditary professional musicians affiliated with, respectively, the imperial court in Kyoto, Kasuga-Kōfukuji in Nara, and Shitennōji in Osaka, and with the most lavish performances being held at temples and shrines in the region, those art forms had already spread to the provinces by the end of the Heian period. This article investigates some of the connections between religious ideas, rituals, and musical performances in relation to Kuroda Toshio’s concept of the exo-esoteric system (kenmitsu taisei) and the creative use of Buddhist canonical sources that such connections originated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
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15 pages, 478 KiB  
Article
Kyoto’s Gion Festival in Late Classical and Medieval Times: Actors, Legends, and Meanings
by Mark Teeuwen
Religions 2022, 13(6), 545; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060545 - 14 Jun 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2044
Abstract
Kyoto’s Gion festival has arguably the best-documented history of all festivals (sairei) in Japan, and studies of its development have heavily influenced our understanding of festivals in general. Yet we must expect that our knowledge of this history is partial at [...] Read more.
Kyoto’s Gion festival has arguably the best-documented history of all festivals (sairei) in Japan, and studies of its development have heavily influenced our understanding of festivals in general. Yet we must expect that our knowledge of this history is partial at most. Extant archives on its late classical and medieval history derive from a narrow group of festival actors, and are therefore intrinsically biased. This article looks at current reconstructions of the festival’s origin and development, addressing primarily the following questions: Which groups of actors are the historical record hiding from us? Is there a world of ritual action, beliefs, and concerns that we are missing entirely? Origin legends have been used throughout history to attribute meaning to the festival procedures. Today as in the past, these legends are always accompanied by narratives of continuity: at its core, it is implied, the festival remains unchanged. Such legends reflect the interests of actors and patrons of different ages, and changes in the festival’s context have required origin tales to be updated or even replaced. What do such narrative innovations reveal about the festival’s changing place in society at different historical junctures? Do such legends contain traces of the activities of actors who have since disappeared, taking their archives with them? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
10 pages, 466 KiB  
Article
Heresy and Liminality in Shingon Buddhism: Deciphering a 15th Century Treatise on Right and Wrong
by Gaétan Rappo
Religions 2022, 13(6), 541; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060541 - 13 Jun 2022
Viewed by 1845
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
23 pages, 698 KiB  
Article
Milking the Bodhi Tree: Mulberry for Disease Demons in Yōsai’s Record of Nourishing Life by Drinking Tea (Kissa yōjōki)
by Andrew Macomber
Religions 2022, 13(6), 525; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060525 - 7 Jun 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3051
Abstract
In light of new discoveries of his writings, recent studies on the medieval Japanese monk Yōsai (or Eisai; 1141–1215) have moved away from longstanding preoccupations with his role in establishing Zen in Japan and instead stress his career-long orientation as an esoteric Buddhist [...] Read more.
In light of new discoveries of his writings, recent studies on the medieval Japanese monk Yōsai (or Eisai; 1141–1215) have moved away from longstanding preoccupations with his role in establishing Zen in Japan and instead stress his career-long orientation as an esoteric Buddhist monk of the Tendai school. Although these revisions have led to innovative readings of his promotion of tea in the first fascicle of his Record of Nourishing Life by Drinking Tea (Kissa yōjōki), similar approaches have yet to be attempted for the second fascicle of this well-known work, in which Yōsai argues for the apotropaic efficacy of mulberry against pathogenic demons. In this article, I seek to remedy this gap firstly by situating Yōsai’s healing program within broader contemporary trends in esoteric ritual healing. Examining the place of mulberry across esoteric liturgical discourse reveals a rich semiotic network in which the tree was tied to three other key ritual and medicinal materials: milkwood, milk, and the bodhi tree. In the second half of the article, I explore the ways that Yōsai’s argument for mulberry’s efficacy was shaped by an “exoteric” source, namely the biography of Śākyamuni Buddha. In this way, my analysis of the Kissa yōjōki provides insight into the interplay of “esoteric” and “exoteric” elements in Yōsai’s thought and career, even as attention to the specificity of his therapeutic claims for mulberry encourages us to move beyond sectarian frameworks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
19 pages, 1152 KiB  
Article
Healing by Spiritual Possession in Medieval Japan, with a Translation of the Genja sahō
by Nobumi Iyanaga
Religions 2022, 13(6), 522; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060522 - 6 Jun 2022
Viewed by 3596
Abstract
From the mid-10th century onward, in cases of illness, the Japanese aristocracy relied on new Buddhist healing methods based on spiritual possession techniques. This essay examines the features and procedures according to which monks and mediums operated the healing. This method, of Indian [...] Read more.
From the mid-10th century onward, in cases of illness, the Japanese aristocracy relied on new Buddhist healing methods based on spiritual possession techniques. This essay examines the features and procedures according to which monks and mediums operated the healing. This method, of Indian origin, was imported in Japan through Esoteric Buddhism, and was adapted in order to fit healing purposes. The author focuses his analysis on the role played by an invisible “spirit” who acted to catch the ill-causing demon within the patient’s body and expelled this malign entity from it. The article ends with a translation of a unique ritual text entitled Genja sahō 驗者作法, which describes these rituals in detail. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
20 pages, 6861 KiB  
Article
Astronomy and Calendrical Science in Early Mikkyō in Japan: Challenges and Adaptations
by Jeffrey Kotyk
Religions 2022, 13(5), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050458 - 18 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 5747
Abstract
This study examines the use, adaptation, modification and omission of astronomical and calendrical elements in early Japanese Mikkyō (ninth century) in large part from the perspective of exact sciences. Shingon and Tendai inherited a Sinicized system of Indian astrology from their respective beginnings, [...] Read more.
This study examines the use, adaptation, modification and omission of astronomical and calendrical elements in early Japanese Mikkyō (ninth century) in large part from the perspective of exact sciences. Shingon and Tendai inherited a Sinicized system of Indian astrology from their respective beginnings, but the significance of this fact in the study of Japanese religions is underrecognized despite the reality that astrology was both studied and technically required in Mikkyō. This study will examine how Mikkyō negotiated the demand for orthopraxical use of Indian models with the contingent realities of only possessing in practice a Chinese calendar and system of observational astronomy. Japanese monks were compelled to observe Indian astrology according to their own scriptures, which by extension necessitated knowledge of Indian astronomy, but substitutions and omissions had to be made in the absence of the required resources and knowledge. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
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22 pages, 638 KiB  
Article
Withered Wood and Dead Ashes—Making Sense of the Sacred Bodies of Kamatari at Tōnomine
by Benedetta Lomi
Religions 2022, 13(5), 439; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050439 - 13 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2926
Abstract
The portrait statue of Fujiwara Kamatari (614–669) enshrined at Tōnomine is well known for its agency and mantic powers. Known to crack whenever the stability of the clan was under threat, the icon was carefully observed and cared for. However, not one but [...] Read more.
The portrait statue of Fujiwara Kamatari (614–669) enshrined at Tōnomine is well known for its agency and mantic powers. Known to crack whenever the stability of the clan was under threat, the icon was carefully observed and cared for. However, not one but two portrait statues of the Fujiwara ancestor existed at Tōnomine in the Heian period, until one was destroyed in the infamous 1208 attack by armed supporters of Kinpusen. This article proposes first to investigate the relationship between these two icons, to show how their dynamic interaction is at the source of the cracking episodes that came to define Kamatari’s cult in later centuries. Then, by looking at the ways in which members of the Fujiwara clan reflected on the nature of the remains of the statue lost in 1208 and on the role of the extant one, it draws attention to how the ritualization of Kamatari’s statue was also couched in Confucian ideas and practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
17 pages, 2781 KiB  
Article
A Star God Is Born: Chintaku Reifujin Talismans in Japanese Religions
by Sujung Kim
Religions 2022, 13(5), 431; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050431 - 11 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4465
Abstract
This article examines a talismanic culture in Japanese religions through the case of the Chintaku reifu 鎮宅霊符 (“numinous talismans for the stabilization of residences”). Whereas previous scholarship viewed the set of seventy-two talismans as having an ancient Korean origin or connection to the [...] Read more.
This article examines a talismanic culture in Japanese religions through the case of the Chintaku reifu 鎮宅霊符 (“numinous talismans for the stabilization of residences”). Whereas previous scholarship viewed the set of seventy-two talismans as having an ancient Korean origin or connection to the Onmyōdō 陰陽道 tradition in Japan, my analysis of the talismans suggests that they arrived in Japan directly from Ming China around the late Muromachi period. Once introduced, the talismans were widely adopted across different religious traditions such as Buddhism, Shinto, Confucianism, and Shugendō under the name Chintaku reifujin 鎮宅霊符神 (the god of Chintaku reifu talismans) in Japan. Locating the talismans as a major force that shaped the medieval and early modern Japanese religious landscape, this article argues that the worship was not an extension or variation of Chinese Big Dipper worship but a sophisticated form of religious mosaic, which allowed an array of different forms of doctrinal thinking, cosmological knowledge, and ritual logics to coexist. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interlacing Networks: Aspects of Medieval Japanese Religion)
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