This week we turn away from politics to discuss religion, art, and the economy during the age of the Ashikaga. Why is this era such a moment of societal flourishing despite the constant warfare and instability of Ashikaga rule?
Collcutt, Martin. Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan.
Adolphson, Michael S. The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha: Monastic Warriors and Sohei in Japan.
Sansom, George B. A History of Japan, 1334-1615.
Parker, Joseph D. Zen Buddhist Landscape Arts of Early Muromachi Japan.
Lu, David J. Japan: A Documentary History, vol. 1.
Grossberg, Kenneth A. Japan’s Renaissance: The Politics of the Muromachi Bakufu.
A Noh performance. Note the mask, the musical performers behind the actor, and the fan in the actor’s hand — all hallmarks of Noh.
The gardens of Tenryuji.
A Noh stage; this should help you get a sense of the unusual layout of Noh performances.
Autumn landscape by Sesshu Toyo, c. 15th century.
Images of warrior monks were popularized during the Edo period, with depictions of historical figures like Musashibo Benkei (shown here with his friend Minamoto no Yoshitsune) becoming extremely common. In practice, few monks were actual warriors — instead, monastic armies consisted mostly of lay people hired to defend monasteries.
A mon (a type of coin) from the Muromachi period. The expansion of coinage helped grow the economy of the Muromachi era substantially.
Plum Tree Screen door by Kano Sanraku, c. 18th c. The Kano school emerged in the Muromachi period, and dominated the painting scene in Japan for the next several centuries.
Dogen Views the Moon, a roughly contemporary painting. It is usually dated to around 1250.
Rujing, the Zen master of Tiantong Mountain who would initiate Dogen into the esoteric Caodong lineage. Some doubt the veracity of his encounter with Dogen, or even Rujing’s own existence — though this latter position is rather extreme and unusual within the scholarly community.
An 1811 edition of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s most famous work on, well, everything.
Eiheiji, the Soto monastery founded by Dogen. It remains one of the chief Soto temples in Japan.
Suzuki Daisetsu’s work would help popularize Buddhism in the US. However, his support for the Japanese Empire is less well-known than his later work (or his love of adorable kittens).
Yasutani Hakuun promoted Japanese militarism (as well as anti-semitism) during the Second World War, and went on the record saying that Japan had to smash the US “for the peace of Asia.” After the war, he went on several speaking tours in the United States.
Kaiten Nukariya’s Zen: The Religion of the Samurai helped popularize the idea of a link between Zen, the samurai class, and warfare.
Sugimoto Goro, the posterboy of the Zen office.
Buddhist monks practice military drill in the 1930s under the gaze of an army officer. By the 1930s, Buddhism had effectively been militarized to support Japan’s wars abroad.
This week’s episode is on the structure of the Kamakura bakufu, its war against the Mongol Yuan dynasty of China, and its eventual destruction and replacement. We’re also going to discuss some cultural innovations of the period, in the form of new Buddhist sects (Zen and Pure Land Buddhism) and the creation of Noh theater.
It’s a bit eclectic, but I think the topics are interesting, and I hope you all agree!