Friday, March 22, 2013

It is not clear exactly when buildings were made to enshrine kami. It is likely that early shrine buildings were built by the same craftsmen who built temples and that both began to flourish from the seventh and eighth centuries. It is known that wooden-post, pit-dwelling structures were built from about 10,000 years ago. It is also known that some form of ritual was carried out in at least some of these structures from the remains of fertility figurines and other evidence of ritual found in archeological sites. Raised-floor storage structures, along with defensive structures such as lookout platforms and timber walls, were widespread in the Yayoi period. Rice storage structures and the residence of the chieftain appear to be prototypes of the shrine building. But the chief place of worship remained outdoors, especially in relation to waterways that were important for village survival and at the outskirts of villages where evil spirits threatened to enter and cause havoc.
            By the end of the Yayoi period, large earthen tombs called kofun were built and these two became sites of worship. Kofun construction came to an abrupt end at around the time Buddhism appeared and family temples and shrines became important centers of ancestor and deity worship.
            Here I offer another section from the Introduction to "Shinto Shrines" that highlights some of the most common shrine building styles. This excerpt is in two parts.

Building types (part 1)
While there are a number of building types, they fall into two categories. The first is a generic type not necessarily associated with any single shrine. The second is usually named after the shrine where the style originated. The second category may extend to no more than a handful of shrines in the same geographic location.

 Shinmei-zukuri: A type of honden construction associated with the rice storehouse and dating from the Yayoi period. A decorated bronze mirror from the fourth century depicts a similar style of building. It is a structure raised on stilts, with the floor level several feet above ground. It uses round wooden pillars between which boards are laid horizontally to form the walls. The wood is unpainted but copper or gold-plated hardware is used. There is a gabled roof that extends beyond the walls on all four sides. The roof material is rice straw (wara) or long grass like miscanthus (kaya), and it is finished with katsuogi and chigi that form a V above the roofline. The entrance is in the center on the non-gabled side, under the eaves, reached by a steep wooden ladderlike stair. There are no other doors or windows. On the gabled side, one pillar extends from the center of the roof ridge down to the ground, exterior to the wall. The pillars are buried directly in the ground. At some point, the architecture of the storehouse became the model for this style of shrine. The chief example is Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture. Originally there was no veranda, but many do now have them, including Ise Jingu.

 Taisha-zukuri: A type of honden building that probably derived from the house (miya) of the village headman, who was responsible for performing rites for the kami. The basic style is considered one of the oldest building types. Wooden boards used for the walls sometimes run vertically, rather than horizontally as in the shinmei and sumiyoshi styles. It has a symmetrical gable roof with the gable on the front. The building is two-bays wide with the entrance in the front-right bay. The left bay has shitomido doors that are split horizontally with the upper half hinged at the top and opening upward, while the bottom half is removable. A veranda encircles the building, and stairs as wide as the entrance lead to ground level. Another characteristic of the style is the gabled roof over the stairs, which follows its steep angle. The chief example of the style is Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture.

 Nagare-zukuri: This is probably the most common style of honden construction, found all around the country. The name means “flowing style,” and it is characterized by an asymmetric, upward-curving, gabled roof. The “flowing” roofline gives the style its name. The entrance is always in the center of the non-gabled side, and the roof there extends well past the wall to cover the veranda. It creates a full-width portico, sometimes with additional square pillars going from ground level up to the extended roof to support it along the eave (especially where the center section has been further extended to cover the stairs). A veranda wraps around three sides. A variation called ryonagare-zukuri has an extended roof on both front and back sides.

 Irimoya-zukuri: This is a general description of a building style that uses a hip-and-gable roof. The simple gable roof (called kirizuma-zukuri) forms an inverted V shape seen from the end. The surface may be flat, slightly concave, or convex. The hip-and-gable adds a lower, pent roof to the gable side, forming an A shape seen from the end. The full hip roof style (yosemune-zukuri) has four sloping rooflines, meeting at the top at a very short ridgepole. It creates a more or less symmetrical profile and a roof that looks very large compared with the building. The full hip style is more common in temple construction. The hip-and-gable style is common for shrines.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion

In the interests of keeping this blog's classifications to a minimum, I am including the following under the title "Excerpts" even though it is not in the book. In was in fact edited out before the book went to press in favor of using the space for other entries. So one could say it is an "excerpt wannabe."

It is a rather long entry which I am splitting into three parts. Hopefully, the intro adequately explains the  reason for the entry and the contents.

Here is Shinto in Ancient Texts  Part 3

Shinto in Ancient Texts (prior to the year A.D.1000)
A hanafuda with a poem by and
image of Kakinomoto Hitomaru
from the Manyoshu
  Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves; mid-eigth century) - the oldest compilation of Japanese-style poetry (20 volumes) and a valuable source of language, religion, important places (including the names of shrines), and customs. Some poems are from as early as the fourth century, but most are from the seventh and early-eighth centuries. These are primarily long poems called choka, and short poems called tanka with both forms containing combinations of five and seven syllable meter. Beside the quality of the poetry and the insight into Japanese thought and emotion, it provides valuable information on places and people and names about one hundred and fifty plants of the time.

  Sumiyoshi taisha jindaiki (731 or 789) - a record of the Sumiyoshi Shrine in Settsu (present day Osaka), compiled by Tsumori Sukune Shimamaro and Tsumori Sukune Marodo in 731. The existing version, an account of the enshrinement and origin of the shrine as well as its property and treasures, is stamped with an official seal from 789.

  Gangoji Engi (747) - a record of the history and holdings of Gangoji Temple, includes accounts of older temples and valuable information on the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. In recent times, the actual date of this document has been called into question.
  Kogoshu (Gleanings from Ancient Tales; 807) - writings ordered by Emperor Heizei to Inbe no Hironari. The Inbe were a clan in charge of festivals and aspects of rites relating to the Emperor. They were also a family of ritual abstainers. The Kogoshu records a number of traditions and stories left out of the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, and provides a slightly different angle on the official viewpoint of history, making it a much-referenced addition to those two works.
  Shinsen shojiroku (New Compilation of Register of Families; 815) - a list of 1,182 family names from the area around the capital acknowledged by the Yamato court, including about three hundred and twenty-six of foreign origin, one hundred twenty of whose country of origin is specified. Divides clan names into shinbetsu (descended from kami), kobetsu (descended from emperors), and banbetsu (descended from immigrants). An important source of the history of Japan's early families and of the role played by Chinese and Korean immigrants in the founding of the Yamato state.
  Kokin Wakashu (Collected Poems of Ancient and Modern Times; about 905) - the first collection of waka poems ordered by imperial request. This collection began a tradition of twenty-one poetry anthologies that extended to the year 1433. As with Manyoshu, mentions shrines and deities and reveals spiritual sensitivities of the time, but also emphases seasonal change and love poems. The ability of an emperor to produce a fine collection of poetry under his reign became a political as well as a social confirmation of his position and the stability of his court.
  Engishki (927-67) - details for implementing laws described in the Taiho and Yoro codes. The only existing part of what was a three-part document known as the Sandai Kyakushiki. The Engishiki is especially important to Shinto in that it gives the names of 2,681 “official” jinja (not including jinguji, miyadera, and others), festivals and rituals, prayers (norito), and the names of 3,132 kami. Along with the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, it is considered the third primary text of Shinto.
  Sendai kuji hongi  (also called Kujiki; possibly tenth century) - a work in ten volumes originally presented as a lost work of Soga no Umako and Shotoku Taishi, generally thought to be fraudulent. Nevertheless, it is a work from the early tenth century or possibly from the early eighth century, probably compiled by a member of the Mononobe clan. As such, though not what it was purported to be, it provides valuable information on the Mononobe and Owari who were early military clans claiming decent from the kami. It also puts forward a mythology based on the descent of Nigihayahi and the ten heavenly objects, found in no other writings on Shinto. It was accepted as authentic up until the seventeenth century and was one of the main scriptures of a branch of theology known as Yoshida Shinto.

There are several other writings also used for historical and religions reference, especially private journals (nikki), many from the eleventh century on, but I would like to briefly outline another category of ancient documentation. In addition to writings there are several types of excavated objects that include important clues to everything from daily life, to the history of Japanese Kingship. One of the most numerous of these objects are the mokkan. These are narrow, wooden slips on which Chinese characters are written in ink. They were used for many purposes but the two main ones were for shipping tags and documents including orders, requests, records, etc. However they were also used for administration and often contain the names of historical figures. The number of these mokkan discovered to date, though mostly incomplete fragments, number in the hundreds of thousands. The vast majority have been found in the Nara area and date from the seventh to eighth centuries. They have greatly aided in understanding the daily operation of the society, and offer a comparison of how systems were implemented versus how they were written in law. Of other objects that shed light on Kingship, two particularly important ones are both swords with inscriptions in Chinese. One is the Inariyama Sword, unearthed from a burial mound of the same name in Saitama Prefecture in eastern Japan. The sword contains a long list of names of family descendants ending with the author who claimed to be in the service of a King thought to be Emperor Yuryaku (r. 456-79). The sword, containing 115 Chinese characters, is dated to the late-fifth century and provides some verification of the reach of the central government at that time. Another important inscription is found on the Nanatsusaya no Tachi (“Seven-branched Sword”), dated to the mid-fourth century and housed at Isonokami Jinja. The inscription on this sword is broken and illegible in places, and what it actually says is still a matter of debate. However it does point to close relations between one Kingdom of Japan and one Kingdom of Korea from at least the mid-fourth century when the sword was probably created. The sword seems to verify an account in the Nihon shoki of a Seven-branched Sword being sent from the King of Paekche to Emperor Ojin in 372. The debate is over whether it was sent from an inferior to a superior or vs. versa. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion

In the interests of keeping this blog's classifications to a minimum, I am including the following under the title "Excerpts" even though it is not in the book. In was in fact edited out before the book went to press in favor of using the space for other entries. So one could say it is an "excerpt wannabe."

It is a rather long entry which I am splitting into three parts. Hopefully, the intro adequately explains the  reason for the entry and the contents.

Here is Shinto in Ancient Texts  Part 2

Shinto in Ancient Texts (prior to the year A.D.1000)
The Nihon shoki
(image from the website of Nara National Museum)
The first writings from Japan are known only through later mention or quotation in later documents. Here I list chronologically a number of important texts that are continuously being speculated about and reinterpreted, in order to better understand the development of Shinto and of Japanese history.

   Kenpo Jushichiju (Seventeen Article Constitution; possibly around 604 - as recorded in the Nihon shoki of 720), Taika Reform and Ritsuryo System (around 645), Omi Code (around 668), Asuka-Kiyomihara Code (689), Taiho Code (701), Yoro Code (718) - the initial organization and subsequent reorganizations of the country, initially along the lines of Chinese government and increasingly introducing uniquely Japanese constructs. A census of the population and land, the division of land and districts, the imposition of taxes, the creation of civil and penal codes, the division of the government into departments of State and Worship, and all matters relating to the governing of the country and religious affairs are gradually defined and established. 

  Kokki and Tennoki (National Records; 620) - an historical text and history of emperors and court nobles thought to have been written by Shotoku Taishi and Soga no Umako but destroyed by fire in 645.

  Kyuji (also known as the Kuji or Honji meaning “Ancient Tales”) and Teiki (Imperial Records) - thought to have been compiled in the mid-seventh century but no longer extant. The Ancient Tales probably contained myths and legends while the Imperial Records contained details on all the emperors up to that time. Said to be the basis for the Kojiki and Nihon shoki and mentioned in both books as existing texts that contained many “errors” and were in need of revision.

From this point we have the first Japanese writings still in existence.
  Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters; 712) - creation and founding myths, stories and names of the kami, list of emperors. These three scrolls are one of the two “primary” sources of Shinto beliefs. Largely ignored after it was compiled, until reexamined by scholars beginning in the mid-seventeenth century. It was recorded that a scholar named O no Yasumaro wrote down a set of documents previously memorized by someone named Hieda no Are. The documents memorized were a chronology of the ruling house (Sumera mikoto no hitsugi) and anecdotal historical accounts (Saki no yo no furugoto). It was written in a combination of Chinese characters that were read phonetically, a style called Man'yogana, and Chinese.
  Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan; 720) - contains the same creation and founding myths as Kojiki but adds several versions, and extends the chronology of the monarchs. It is also much longer than Kojiki (thirty volumes extant plus one lost volume vs. three for the Kojiki). It is the second “primary” source of Shinto beliefs. Both this and the Kojiki are a mixture of legend, myth, historical accounts and common beliefs. Because they are the oldest existing writings on these subjects, they have been much analyzed for both religious and historical truths and to understand the thinking of the ancient Japanese. Compiled by Prince Toneri (676-735), a son of Emperor Tenmu.
  Hitachi, Harima, Hizen, Bungo, Yamashiro and Izumo Fudoki (approximately 713-33) - the Fudoki is a gazetteer or report from the provinces of Japan. This report was ordered by the central government in 713 and was to contain practical information (names of places, products of the province, etc.), as well as local legends, myths and “strange events” as remembered by the elderly. Only a few of these survive, most of them only in fragments. These are valuable local histories and legends, and offer confirmation and contradiction of accounts in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki.
  Kaifuso (Fond Recollections of Poetry; 751) - the oldest collection of Chinese-style poetry (kanshi) written by Japanese, it contains one hundred and twenty poems by sixty-four authors, most of who were princes. Neither a historical no religious text, it provides background and a sense of the age.
  Shoku Nihongi (History of Japan; 797) - an officially compiled historical work covering the time from the reign of Emperor Mammu (697) to the second year of Emperor Konin (791). Provides valuable information about the Nara period and the official recognition of both kami (called jindo) and Buddhism. This is an important historical document, covering a key part of Japanese history. In total there are considered to be six national histories (rikkokushi) covering the mythological age to 887, beginning with the Nihon shoki and continuing to the Shoku Nihongi (697-791), Nihon Koki (792-833), Shoku Nihon Koki (833-50), Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku (850-58), Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (858-87). They are written in “kanbun”, another system of assigning Japanese meaning and pronunciation to Chinese characters.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion

In the interests of keeping this blog's classifications to a minimum, I am including the following under the title "Excerpts" even though it is not in the book. In was in fact edited out before the book went to press in favor of using the space for other entries. So one could say it is an "excerpt wannabe."

It is a rather long entry which I am splitting into three parts. Hopefully, the intro adequately explains the  reason for the entry and the contents.

Here is Shinto in Ancient Texts  Part 1

Shinto in Ancient Texts (prior to the year A.D.1000)
The Nihon shoki
(image from the website of Nara National Museum)
The late introduction of writing skills to Japan (circa 400) is the reason we must rely on archeological evidence and Chinese documents up until the first surviving texts of Japanese myth, religion, poetry and history from the early eighth century. Writing and reading Chinese began about mid-sixth century with the importation of texts and scholars who could teach them. The writing system was slowly absorbed and its characters adapted to Japanese speech and meaning. While texts from the early seventh century are referred to in later works, the earliest authenticated existing native texts are from the early eighth century (although these exist not in the original, but in the form of thirteenth to fourteenth century copies). Thus, whenever the topic of Shinto is razed in a religious, historical, or lexical context, the texts in this list are inevitably quoted.
   While it is likely that the so-called Yamato clans' consolidation of power was already beginning in the third century, the extension of centralized power over most of Kyushu and western and eastern Honshu continued apace with the adoption of the Chinese writing system, the incorporation of Buddhism as personal protector of the Emperor and of the nation, trade with the continent, Chinese style government, and the building of increasingly grand capitals from Asuka, to Fujiwarakyo, to Heijokyo (Nara), to Heiankyo (Kyoto). As recorded in the Kojiki, the third century king, Sujin, was called the “founder of the country” (although his reign is artificially assigned to 97-30B.C. and, despite the above reference, he is recorded as the tenth emperor). If, as is currently believed, his reign was in the early third century, it may have coincided with the visit by Chinese officials (as recorded in the Wei Chronicles), and with what they apparently believed was the reign of a queen they called Himiko. By the later half of the fifth century, Emperor Yuryaku was (posthumously) called “Great King Who Governs All Under Heaven,” probably reflecting another milestone in the consolidation of centralized power. 
   Attempts by the “center” to take control over the “periphery” continued to gain traction as time went on. But powerful clans were constantly struggling for position, and the supremacy of one over all was in constant flux. As part of the effort to retain power, the stability of royal succession became increasingly important. In the early sixth century, a succession crisis seems to have emerged when Yuryaku died and an overabundance of princes from his many marriages of convenience, vied for the thrown. 
   It took several short reigns and about thirty years before a new emperor, Keitai (r.507 to 531 or possibly to 518), a distant relative of Ojin, was brought in from one of the related northern clans. It may be about this time that the legend of Emperor Jinmu took shape amongst the ruling clans. When the story is eventually committed to paper in the eighth century, the reign of this mythological first emperor is artificially pushed back in time to 660B.C., in order to enhance the prestige of the Imperial lineage. It is probably about this time that the emperor is linked to direct descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu. 
   It seems that eventually myths emerged about the origins of the Japanese ruler that were woven into a continuous story. It begins with the beginning of heaven and earth and the names of the various kami who created and ruled. It emerges that one kami, the sun goddess Amaterasu omikami, is superior to the others. This kami was likely an adoption by the ruling class of a widespread worship of a sun gods and goddesses (or of the sun itself) that existed among a number of clans. The story further developed that this sun goddess was the ancestor of the royal family, when the grandchild of the sun goddess descends from heaven to earth on to a mountaintop in Southern Kyushu. This aspect of the story is thought to be an imported one, since similar myths are found throughout Asia. 
   In this new allegory, allied clan's ujigami (tutelary kami) were identified as those who were trusted by Amaterasu to protect the heavenly descendants. The great impetus for this historical and mythical consolidation came from Emperor Tenmu (r.672-86) and Empress Jito (r.686-697). Tenmu came to the throne by force and needed divine assistance to legitimize his reign. His older brother, Emperor Tenji (r.661-72) had likewise come to power by overthrowing the Soga clan. The Soga and Shotoku Taishi had ushered in Buddhism and Chinese-style government.  Tenji too passed Chinese-style laws to consolidate and strengthen his government, and Tenmu did likewise. But, power and legislation aside, real dynastic legitimacy came to rest on firmly establishing the emperor's divinity and his link to heaven. It is around Tenmu's time that the term “Tenno” (“Heavenly Sovereign”) is first applied to the emperor.
   Another impetus for establishing divine legitimacy was the fall of Paekche, the ancient Korean Kingdom with the closest ties to Japan, in 672, and the loss of territories on the Korean Peninsula. Tenmu had reason to fear the combined strength of the victors, the Kingdom of Silla, and the Tang Chinese who supported them. He was anxious to show Japan as a strong, unified country, with an ancient pedigree. He revived previous attempts to create national histories, which culminated in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki under the reign of granddaughter Empress Gensho (r. 715-24). Through these two writings and others listed below, the local worship of farmers and fisherman, weavers and warriors, gradually takes on the structure of a national mythology of the origins of the kami, the ruling class, and of Japan itself. The list below is by no means complete but provides much of the literary basis of discussion related to ancient Japanese history and religion. Later theories and permutations, such as those of the Watarai of the Outer shrine of Ise, Yoshida Shinto, and the work of the Kokugaku and Nativist Scholars, are all based on these works. The first writings relative to Japan are all of foreign origin and primarily historical accounts:

   The Wei Chronicles  (Wei-zhi; A.D.280-297) - a first hand report by an emissary from the Wei Dynasty to Japan (the exact location visited is a matter of speculation) in the years 239-248. It exists as a part of the Chronicles of the Three Dynasties (Sanguozhi) and covers the years 221 to 265. It is an important source of information on the “Kingdom of Wa” (an ancient Japanese kingdom) and its report of the so-called Shaman Queen Himiko and her successors. 
   Kwanggaet'o stele (A.D.414) - a stone monument to Kwanggaet'o, the ruler of one of the ancient Kingdoms of Korea, Koguryeo, from A.D.391-413. Certain inscriptions on this stone referring to the Wa and their contentious relations with Silla and Koguryeo (parts of present day South and North Korea and China) are the source of some controversy between Japanese and Korean historians. Not directly connected to Shinto but only an important verification that the ancient Japanese had crossed into Korea at least as early as the late fourth century.
   Hou Han-shu (Book of the Later Han; A.D.445) - another Chinese history compiled mostly from other works (including the Wei Chronicles), covers the years A.D.25 to 220 and adds some additional information about the country of Yamadai (Yamaichi) and the King of Wa. 
   Song shu (A.D.488) - a Chinese history that contains accounts of the “Five Kings of Wa,” and the titles granted them by China between the years 438 and 502. Provides valuable clues to Japanese history that help to verify some later historical accounts and disprove others.
   Buddhist sutras and Chinese philosophy (from A.D.538 on or possibly earlier) - the usual date given for Buddhism's introduction to Japan begins with a gift of a statue of the Buddha and a sutra written in Chinese. By the reign of Emperor Shomu (r.724-49), some 200 years later, a sutra-copying department was created in the government. The introduction of Buddhism and writing transformed Japan forever. Other ancient Chinese texts transformed the ruling philosophy of the fledgling Japanese government and provided a model for everything from governance, to city building, to court life and the role of the King. Such texts as the Analects of Confucius, the Book of Rites, The History of the Former Han, The Rites of Chou and many others were all available to the Japanese court, along with interpreters and teachers, from the mid-sixth century on. They provide much of the structure and many of the concepts that inform later Japanese ideas about the role of governing and the governed. Confucianism becomes the moral underpinning of Japanese society and defines the relation of the ruler to the ruled.
   Kudara Hongi (Paekche Pon'gi; prior to A.D.700) - another Korean historical text, no longer extant, that was apparently used as reference material by the compilers of the Nihon shoki. Two other lost documents, Kudara-ki and Kudara-shinsen were also probably used at some point.