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Beyond religious : kūkai the literary sage

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Item Summary

Title: Beyond religious : kūkai the literary sage
Authors: Matsuda, William J.
Keywords: Buddhism
Issue Date: Aug 2014
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2014]
Abstract: This dissertation examines non-doctrinal writings by Kūkai (774-835), the systemizer of esoteric Buddhism in Japan. Most prior scholarship on Kūkai attends to either theological or biographical issues. Despite his reputation as a talented poet and calligrapher, no English-language work to date focuses solely on his accomplishments in these fields. This study aims to fill this lacuna, if even just partially, by providing scholarly translation and analysis of selected poems, letters, monuments and epitaphs, that appear in the Shōryōshū, an anthology compiled by Kūkai's disciple Shinzei (800-860).
Modern Japanese cultural history views Kūkai as a canonical hero, who braved stormy seas to travel to China and learn the secrets of the Mahāvairocana sūtra. The seemingly secure position he occupies in modern memory elides his unconventional life, education, and cultural activity. While Emperor Saga and his kanshi coterie admired Kūkai's unique talents, the idiosyncrasies of his background and style removed him from the mainstream of Heiankyō poetic life.
This study complicates conventional views on Kūkai, reinterpreting him as a Chinese, not kanshi poet, by demonstrating his facility in poetic genres ignored by the Heiankyō intelligentsia. Although several of Kūkai's poems were included in one of the ninth-century kanshi anthologies, his views on the superiority of Sanskrit suggest he did not share the prevailing sinocentric stance on monjō keikoku (statecraft through writing). Finally, the efforts by Shinzei to anthologize his works for the benefit of a wider readership indicate that Kūkai's status as a cultural figure was not uncontested during his lifetime.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese)

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