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

Postgraduate Course: Buddhism and the Statutory State in Eighth and Ninth Century East Asia (ASST11073)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) 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, Saich¿ (767-822) and K¿kai (774-835) will be treated in some detail, as they provide, through contrasting interaction with ritsury¿ 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 Saich¿'s petitions for adoption of the Mahayana precepts and of K¿kai'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 Saich¿ and K¿kai from the late eighth century are looked at in detail, including Saich¿'s Mah¿y¿na precepts and his debates with the Nara establishment, and K¿kai's rise to political and religious prominence, espeically 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
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 organization and exercise of state power, and the distinctive practice of ritual in that context
  4. Masters-level sophistication in academic writing and oral presentation
  5. The ability to apply the insights gained, to other contexts
Reading List
Most of the original primary texts are available on-line for those students with the relevant linguistic background. Others, including texts in translation, will be provided electronically, through the Learn portal.
Primary materials in translation are found in the Columbia sourcebooks: China (Vol. 1, 1960 and reprints), Japan (Vol. 1, 1958 and reprints), and Korean Civilization (Vol. 1, 1993); and in David Lu, Japan: A Documentary History, 1997.
Charles Holcombe, "Ritsuryo Confucianism", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 57, No. 2. (Dec., 1997), pp. 543-573.
Paul Groner, Saich¿. Honolulu: Hawaii UP, 2000.
R. Abé, The weaving of mantra: Kukai and the construction of esoteric Buddhist discourse. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Relevant essays in The Cambridge History of China and The Cambridge History of Japan.
C. D. Orzech, Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, Handbook of Oriental Studies, vol. 24 [Section four: China]. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2011.
C. D. Orzech, Politics and transcendent wisdom: The Scripture for Humane Kings in the Creation of Chinese Buddhism. University Park PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1998.
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.
Jonathan W. Best, "Tales of Three Paekche Monks Who Traveled Afar in Search of The Law", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 51, No. 1. (Jun., 1991), pp. 139-197.
Inoue, M., ed. (1977), Studies on ancient Japanese history, Vol. 31, T¿y¿ Bunko, Tokyo.
E. van Goethem, Nagaoka, Leiden: Brill, 2008.
Ooms, H. (2009), Imperial politics and symbolics in ancient Japan: the Tenmu dynasty, 650¿800, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu.
Felicia G. Bock, "The Enthronement Rites: The Text of Engishiki, 927", Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 45, No. 3. (Autumn, 1990), pp. 307-337.
Bruce L. Batten, "Provincial Administration in Early Japan: From Ritsuryo kokka to Ocho kokka", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1. (Jun., 1993), pp. 103-134.
Fogel, J. A. (2009), Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese relations in space and time, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Further reading
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.
Hempel, R. (1983), The Heian civilization of Japan, Phaidon, Oxford.
F. Hérail, La cour et l'administration du Japon à l'époque de Heian, vol. 40 of École pratique des hautes études. IVe Section, Sciences historiques et philologiques II. Hautes études orientales. Genève: Librairie Droz, 2006.
William Wayne Farris, "Trade, Money, and Merchants in Nara Japan", Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 53, No. 3. (Autumn, 1998), pp. 303-334.
Charlotte von Verschuer, "Japan's Foreign Relations 600 to 1200 A.D.: A Translation from Zenrin Kokuh¿ki", Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 54, No. 1. (Spring, 1999), pp. 1-39.
Walley, A. (2015), Constructing the Dharma king: the Ho¿ryu¿ji Shaka triad and the birth of the Prince Sho¿toku cult, E. J. Brill, Leiden.
Acri, A., ed. (2016), Esoteric Buddhism in medieval maritime Asia: networks of masters, texts, icons, ISEAS ¿ Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.
Sen, T., ed. (2014), Buddhism across Asia: networks of material, intellectual and cultural exchange, Vol. 1, ISEAS¿Yusof Ishak Institute, Pasir Panjang, Singapore.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information One two-hour seminar weekly.
KeywordsBuddhism,statutory state,pre-modern East Asia,Tang China,Korea,Japan,Saicho,Kukai,politics,Heian
Course organiserDr Abigail MacBain
Tel: (0131 6)51 1358
Course secretaryMr Callum Lennie
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