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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Asian Studies

Undergraduate Course: Buddhism and the Statutory State in Eighth and Ninth Century East Asia (ASST10157)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course deals with the manner in which politics and philosophy, ritual and cosmology are intertwined in the legitimation and administration of state power, by examining the origins of the statutory state (lu ling, ritsuryo) in Sui and Tang China, and tracing its development in East Asia through to the situation in early Heian Japan (ninth century). The religious, philosophic and ritual aspects should attract the interest of students in other subjects such as religious studies, politics or philosophy.
Course description This course explores the interplay of politics, philosophy, ritual and cosmology in the legitimation and administration of state power. We trace the origins of the statutory state (lu ling, ritsury¿) in Sui and Tang China, and its adoption first on the Korean peninsula and then in the early Japanese state (Nara and Heian periods, viz. eighth and ninth centuries). The changes brought about in early ninth-century Japan by the activities of two monks in particular, Saicho (767-822) and Kukai (774-835) will be treated in some detail, as they provide, through contrasting interaction with ritsuryo norms, intriguing illustrations of the role of ideology and cosmology in government.

In the background are the standards of government exemplified by Tang China and the relations developed and nurtured by the prominent sovereign states of East Asia. An analysis of the religio-political implications of Saicho's petitions for adoption of the Mahayana precepts and of Kukai's introduction of Esoteric Buddhism will give students a focal point for understanding the importance of cosmology and ontology in the religio-political matrix.

The course begins with an examination of the political aspects of the eastward spread of Buddhism and the integration of Buddhism into the Tang state. Attention is also given to the place of translating the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese (Xuan Zang) and the technology of Esoteric Buddhism (Amoghavajra); Japanese embassies to China and the Chinese influence on the first Japanese state; and a detailed consideration of the eighth-century Japanese capital Nara, which in turn entails an analysis of the state, its cosmology, its Buddhism and its material culture. The careers and writings of Saicho and Kukai from the late eighth century are looked at in detail, including Saicho's Mahayana precepts and his debates with the Nara establishment, and Kukai's rise to political and religious prominence, especially his expansive writings on cosmos and the state. The course will also provide opportunity for summative reflections on Buddhism and the polity in comparative perspective.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Solid understanding of the origins and development of the lüling system in Sui and Tang China and its adoption in Japan in particular.
  2. Critical ability in assessing of sources and documents related to systems of government in ancient East Asia and the specifically Buddhist background to the changes in early ninth-century Japan which have been selected for detailed attention.
  3. Knowledge of major issues in the influence of ethos, ideology and cosmology in the organisation and exercise of state power, and the distinctive practice of ritual in that context.
  4. Appropriate sophistication in academic writing and oral presentation.
  5. The ability to apply the insights gained, to other contexts.
Reading List
Bünger, K., Schram, S. R., ed. (1987), Concluding remarks on two aspects of the Chinese unitary state as compared with the European state system, SOAS; University of Hong Kong Press, London; Hong Kong.

Acri, A., ed. (2016), Esoteric Buddhism in medieval maritime Asia: networks of masters, texts, icons, ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

Inoue, M., ed. (1977), Studies on ancient Japanese history, Vol. 31, T¿y¿ Bunko, Tokyo.

Takasaki, J., ed. (1985), The assimilation of Buddhism in ancient Japan: from introduction to firm acceptance, Vol. 47, Toyo Bunko, Tokyo.

Aoki, K., ed. (1995), Studies in ancient Japanese history, Vol. 69, Toyo Bunko, Tokyo.

Batten, B. L. (1986), 'Foreign threat and domestic reform: the emergence of the ritsury¿ state', Monumenta Nipponica 41(2), 199-219.

Buhrman, K. M. (2012), 'The stars and the state: astronomy, astrology, and the politics of natural knowledge in early medieval Japan'.

Denecke, W. (2004), 'Chinese antiquity and court spectacle in early kanshi', Journal of Japanese Studies 30(1), 97-122.

Fogel, J. A. (2009), Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese relations in space and time, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Hempel, R. (1983), The Heian civilization of Japan, Phaidon, Oxford.

Holcombe, C. (1999), 'Trade-Buddhism: Maritime Trade, Immigration, and the Buddhist Landfall in Early Japan', Journal of the American Oriental Society 119(2), 280-292.

Inoue, M. (1977), 'The Ritsuryo system in Japan', Acta Asiatica 31, 83-112.

Jülch, T. (2012), 'On whether or not Buddhist monks should bow to the emperor: Yancong¿s (557-610) Futian lun (Treatise on the fields of blessedness)', Monumenta Serica 60(1), 1-43.

Ooms, H. (2009), Imperial politics and symbolics in ancient Japan: the Tenmu dynasty, 650-800, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu.

Orlando, R. (1981), 'A study of Chinese documents concerning the life of the tantric Buddhist patriarch Amoghavajra (A.D. 705-774)', PhD thesis, Princeton University.

Sen, T., ed. (2014), Buddhism across Asia: networks of material, intellectual and cultural exchange, Vol. 1, ISEAS¿Yusof Ishak Institute, Pasir Panjang, Singapore.

Walley, A. (2015), Constructing the Dharma king: the Horyuji Shaka triad and the birth of the Prince Shotoku cult, E. J. Brill, Leiden.

Wang, Z. (2005), Ambassadors from the islands of immortals: China-Japan relations in the Han-Tang period, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu.

Wang, Z. (2013), Tang China in multi-polar Asia: a history of diplomacy and war, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu.

Wechsler, H. J. (1980), 'The Confucian impact on early Tang decision-making', T'oung Pao 66(1/3), 1-40.

Weinstein, S. (1987), Buddhism under the T'ang, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Ability to gather and process complex information.
Ability to apply theoretical frameworks to political and religious phenomena.
Sympathy for other cultural contexts.
Ability to set forth and defend one's interpretation amongst one's peers.
Writing and presentation skills.
Additional Class Delivery Information One 2-hour seminar per week.
KeywordsBuddhism,statutory state,pre-modern East Asia,Tang China,Korea,Japan,Saicho,Kukai,politics,religion
Course organiserDr Abigail MacBain
Tel: (0131 6)51 1358
Course secretaryMr Callum Lennie
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