Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

ASCJ Executive Committee
Conference venue
Nearby hotels 

Inaugural conference 
1998 conference
1999 conference
2000 conference
2001 conference 
2002 conference
2002 registration

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 11
Pious Performance in Medieval and Early Modern Japan
Organizer: Lorinda Kiyama, Stanford University/Shokei Daigaku
Chair: Arthur Thornhill, University of Hawaii at Manoa

This panel investigates the literary language and music of Japanese Buddhist ritual from the Heian through the early Tokugawa periods. Each paper addresses competing and complementary demands for religious efficacy, entertainment, and aesthetic satisfaction through sacred performance.
Our approach is contextual. We analyze poetry, prayers, and liturgy in an effort to understand their participation in social and literary economies. Nelson surveys the linguistic and musical essentials of the Rishu Zanmai, a key Shingon ritual. He helps peel apart the geographical and historical layers of Heian Buddhist services. Kiyama identifies a
number of poetic forms integral to Buddhist ceremonies of late Heian and early Kamakura performative preachers. She emphasizes the diversity of verse within Buddhist worship. Oyler explores the placatory genre of daimokutate in relation to narratives about the Gempei War and ritual performance traditions. Her study connects the practice of daimokutate to religiously-charged sites.
In depicting three moments in the history of ritual performance in Japan, we hope to demonstrate that religious occasions were fertile opportunities for literary, performative innovation, as well as social, spiritual negotiation.

1) Steven G. Nelson, Kyoto City University of Arts. "Language, Text Forms, and Musical Style in Standard Japanese Buddhist Liturgy: As Exemplified by the Shingon Ritual-Form Rishu Zanmai"

As is the case with the liturgical forms of most organised religions, Japanese Buddhism has developed an intricate web of liturgical texts of varying provenances and ages. The musical settings of these texts make up the traditional repertoire of shômyô (Japanese Buddhist chant). Single rituals often combine texts in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese ranging from kanbun kundoku style to more vernacular forms, and thus present a complex amalgam of geographical and historical layers. Musical styles range across a wide spectrum from highly melismatic pieces in a broad, free rhythm to the syllabic chanting of the Buddhist sutras to a constant, fixed beat. Moreover, a number of correlations exist between language, text type (prose/verse) and musical style. In an effort to survey the linguistic and musical essentials of Japanese Buddhist liturgy, I will examine the Rishu Zanmai, a ritual form which has been central to Shingon ritual practice for centuries and can be traced back at least to the tenth century. One important ceremonial context of this ritual form is the Kôbô Daishi Shoo-Mieku, a memorial ceremony held annually on March 21 for Kôbô Daishi, Kûkai (774-835). I will focus primarily on the form that the Rishu Zanmai takes in this ceremony

2) Lorinda Kiyama, Stanford University/Shokei Daigaku. "The Poetics of Performative Preaching"

This paper explores the varieties of verse within the practice of shodoshi, or performative preachers, of twelfth and thirteenth century Japan. It begins with an overview of poetry and song in Heian Buddhist worship, apart from the musical recitation of scriptural texts, or shomyo. This includes a comparison of religio-poetic societies and a critique of rhetoric about literary production as devotion. Poetic forms such as kyoge, kunkada, shuku, waka, and imayo appear in summaries of religious services recorded by performative preachers and by their audiences, and in literary descriptions of these events. In an effort to expand somewhat narrow notions of Buddhist poetry, I will analyze these kinds of verse in terms of content, function, and aesthetics. Who composed them? Who decided to place them at this juncture in the service, and how does this situating affect their meaning? Who sang or read the verses aloud? What sorts of poetry participate silently in the ritual occasion, on folding screens, attached to newly-copied sutras, or buried in a private written prayer? In what material form were they presented and preserved? Some of the answers to these questions can be found in treatises on the art of performative preaching, such as Tenporin hiden. The prescriptions in this text for an elegant Buddhist service are reflected in the format of sourcebooks for shodoshi, such as Hobutsushu, which contains hundreds of kanshi and waka cleverly reinterpreted as "proof" of Buddhist tenets. This paper concludes with a reassessment of the poetics of worship.

3) Elizabeth Oyler, Washington University. "Daimokutate: Placatory Ritual Performance and the Gempei War"

Daimokutate is a ritual performance genre whose function was to placate spirits of specific Gempei War heroes. Once consisting of a large repertoire, the active performance canon has, in modern times, dwindled to three pieces which focus on the major figures in the war (Taira Kiyomori and Minamoto Yoritomo). All three have strong ritual connections to established religious sites as well. In this presentation, I will briefly introduce the genre and then focus on one piece, "Itsukushima." Through an investigation of this piece, I will elucidate the genre's relation to other narratives of the Gempei War on the one hand, and different ritual performance traditions on the other. In particular, I will discuss ways in which the daimokutate texts integrate narrative from the Heike monogatari and other accounts of the war while maintaining a distinct performance practice that links the genre closely to other ritual traditions. In my consideration of daimokutate as ritual practice, I will discuss structure, dance, and vocalization in an attempt to understand the meaningfulness of daimokutate as a performance genre and its relation to the various narratives and rituals with which it overlaps and interacts.

Discussant: Paul S. Atkins, Montana State University


list of panels