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

Postgraduate Course: The Buddhist Brush: Discursive and Graphic Expressions of Japanese Buddhism (ASST11071)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers a perspective on literary and artistic traditions of Japan that is not found elsewhere: focussing on the rich tradition of writing in the sinitic world, it seeks to unravel the complex intertwining of literati accomplishments in the discursive, poetic and pictorial arts with the Buddhist view of life. It is designed to cater to the interests not only of students of Japan but also of religious studies and of disciplines in the literary and visual arts. It also provides a historical perspective on pre-modern artistic traditions which are being maintained and pursued in contemporary Japan. It also provides a window on the permutations of a philosophy which is deeply embedded in Japanese society.
Course description 1. Butsudo, shodo: The Way of the Buddha and the Way of the Brush
Concepts central to the Buddhist ethos and their transformations in East Asia; the adoption of the brush in Buddhist culture.
[Bechert and Gombrich 1984, introductory chapters, chapters on China, Korea and Japan]
2. The technology of the writing brush, techniques in writing and painting [LaMarre 2000; Ishikawa 2011]
3. The hair of the badger: Kukai as calligrapher, writer and purveyor of material culture [Hakeda 1972; Abé 1999; Astley 2004, 2011; Bogel 2010]
4. Kukai's mature philosophic thinking and its consequences for our understanding of Esoteric Buddhist art [Giebel 2004; Bogel 2011.
5. Saigyo: Court and renunciation in times of bloodshed and turmoil [LaFleur 2003; Watanabe 1987; Adolphson 2000]
6. Saigyo: Mountain huts and the road Watson 1991; Allen 1955; Saigyo monogatari (on-line resource).
7. Basho and his predecessors [Keene 1976, Part One, esp. ch. 5; Keene 1989; Fujikawa 1965; Qiu 2005]
8. Basho's Oku no hosomichi [Britton 1980; Yuasa 1966; Millett 1997]
9. Hakuin: Zen brush, Zen man Yampolsky 1971; Awakawa 1970.
10. Jiun Sonja: The Esoteric Buddhist brush and discourses of reform
Watt 1984; Awakawa 1970.

- The deceptively simple technology of the brush and its central place in the written and the pictorial cultures of the sinific world;
- The importance of the general Chinese cultural influence;
- Relevant aspects of the Buddhist ethos;
- The work of key Buddhist figures in the literary, philosophic and artistic traditions of Japan (Kukai, Saigyo, Basho, Hakuin, Jiun Sonja), including such pivotal works as Oku no hosomichi [The Narrow Roads of the Remote Provinces].
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed:
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Solid understanding of relevant Japanese literary and artistic traditions, and of the Buddhist world view espoused by the figures being analysed
  2. Critical assessment of sources and documents related to these Buddhist writers, in pre-modern Japanese where appropriate, and the ability to form and defend judgements about their work, in particular how the discursive and non-discursive forms of expression interact
  3. The ability to identify and explain connexions and contrasts between different figures and eras
  4. Masters-level sophistication in academic writing and oral presentation
  5. Students with appropriate prior knowledge of Japanese will be expected to be able to analyse the original texts for the purposes of the above outcomes
Reading List
The following readings are the primary texts in English translation. The originals are all available in on-line repositories or will be provided on request.
A list of secondary works on the relevant Buddhist background, historical and philosophic, will also be distributed.
- R. Giebel: Translations of central texts by Kukai (Taisho 2426-2430), Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai edition, 2004.
- B. Watson, Saigyo: poems of a mountain home. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1991.
- D. G. Britton, A Haiku journey, Basho's Narrow road to a far province. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1st rev. pbk. ed., 1980.
- N. Yuasa, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and other travel sketches. Translated with an introduction by Nobuyuki Yuasa. Penguin classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966 [and reprints].
- P. B. Yampolsky, The Zen master Hakuin: selected writings. Records of civilization, New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.
- P. B. Watt, Jiun Sonja.
There is also a useful website on Jiun, in French:
- Jiun Sonja, tr. Éric Rommeluère:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information One two-hour session per week. It is essential that students prepare the relevant materials for each session and participate actively.
KeywordsBuddhism,calligraphy,painting,philosophy,art,discursive and graphic
Course organiserDr Abigail MacBain
Tel: (0131 6)51 1358
Course secretaryMr Callum Lennie
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