Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Brief Historical Overview of Japan


A. Pre-modern

Heian (794-1185):
-capital moved here from Nara in 794, and remained capital until Taira clan (and emperors) were defeated by Minamoto clan in Genpei War, establishing Kamakura bakufu or Shogunate;
-city modeled after Tang dynasty capital Chang’an;
-Buddhism (mainly Lotus-sutra-based populist Tendai and China-Kūkai-derived esoteric-aristocratic Shingon), Taoism, Chinese influences spread;
-imperial court center of culture, while Fujiwara clan ruled from behind scenes, securing power through intermarrying with royalty;
-rise of samurai class, first as bodyguards (this class eventually defeats the aristocracy and takes power)

-court stops sending official delegates to Tang dynasty China in 9th centurydevelopment of kana and flowering of indigenous Japanese culture of the literate aristocracy/Buddhist clergy;
-waka (later known as tanka; 5-7-5 kami no ku + 7-7 shimo no ku; e.g. Kokinwakashū first of series of imperial anthologies, also scattered throughout monogatari) replaces kanshi;
-monogatari reaches peak; monogatari: tale or prose narrative, “relating of things” or “person telling”: “mono o kataru”; Taketori monogatari said to be the first; usually have “monogatari” in title; about someone other than author; many subgenres, e.g. denki, rekishi, gunki, jitsuroku, etc; examples: Ise monogatari, Genji monogatari, Konjaku monogatari, and later, Eiga monogatari, Taiheiki; at least 198 monogatari written by late 13th century, 40 of which still exist.

Kamakura (1185-1333)
-Victorious Minamoto clan, led by Minamoto no Yoritomo, makes Kamakura the seat of shogunate and regent;
-bushi class replaces aristocracy as rulers of Japan;
-in dark days, Buddhism thrives and spreads its influence;
-resistance to Shogunate dictatorship in provinces, situation unstable, although Shogunate mains maintains equilibrium with Kyoto court (contrast with Ashikaga Shogunate);
-great popularization of Buddhism (newer Jōdo-shū and Zen dominate, while older aristocracy-supported esoteric Shingon and the Tendai at Hiezan continue;
-Key Tendai followers break off: Nichiren forms Nichiren, Dōgen forms Sōtō Zen, Eisai forms Rinzai Zen, Ippen forms Ji (i.e. Amida Buddha dance), Shinran forms Jōdo shinshū, Hōnen forms Jōdōshū);
-taking advantage of this instability, the Mongols invade Japan in 1274 and 1281, but were repulsed by two well-timed typhoons;
-Finally, loyalist Nitta Yoshisada conquers and destroys Kamakura in 1333, reestablishing imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo.

-era of political uncertainty reflected in literature of period (e.g. heavily Buddhist-influenced Hōjōki by Kamo no Chōmei in 1212; Heikei monogatari about rise and fall of Taira; Shin kokinwakashū in 1201-5);
-nostalgia for past a major theme; mappō end days
-early renga, haikai; busshi (Buddhist sculptor);
-Unkei’s sculptures in Nara, etc.
Muromachi (1336-1573)
-period of the Ashikaga (i.e. Muromachi) Shogunate, who lived on Muromachi street in Kyoto;
-period has two major eras: Nanboku-chō (1336-1392) and Sengoku (1467-1573)
-Ōnin War (1467–1477) marked the start of the Sengoku period; wiped out Kyoto, as well as the bakufu’s national authority, leaving a power vacuum that led to a century of war and anarchy;
-contact with Ming Dynasty China renewed;
-Ashikaga shogunate takes over parts of imperial government;
-Shintō, for centuries quiet and absorbed into more powerful Buddhism (esp. Shingon; ryōbū or dual Shintō) reemerges as autonomous force, spurred by Mongol invasion and new sense of national consciousness, and encouraged by Kitabatake Chikafusa and other Shintō revivalist-loyalists;
-Europeans arrive: first the Portugese in southern Kyūshū in 1543 (Xavier and Spanish Jesuits in 1549), initiating period of Nanban trade (lasts till 1614), followed by the Spanish in 1587, then the Dutch in 1609;
-attention to outside intensified with increase in foreign trade;
-Muromachi period ends when last Ashikaga shogunate (Yoshiaki) forced out of Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga;

-much of what we consider as “Japanese aesthetics” developed/came to prominence in this period: wabi (transient and stark beauty; spiritual wealth in material poverty), sabi (beauty of aging), yūgen (profound grace and subtlety), cha no yu, Sen no Rikyū, ikebana, Noh, bonsai, zōen landscape gardening, etc.;
-why this emphasis on transience?national culture was centered around the bakufu-Shogunate headquarters in Kyoto, thus military/somber/Spartan/austere ethics-aesthetics;
-Also, Zen, which plays a major role in spreading religion and art;
-Also, imperial court and bakufu-Shogunate together in Kyoto lead to comingling of regional daimyō, samurai, Zen priests, imperial family members, courtiers; militarization of aristocracy;
-Also Zeami (1364-1443), father of Noh. As we will see, Buddhist concerns/themes/messages feature prominently in Noh.

Azuchi-Momoyama (1568-1603):
-following Sengoku warring states period, political unification; era name derived from Nobunaga’s castle in Azuchi (Shiga-ken);
-during this transitional period, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi impose order on the chaos following Ashikaga Shogunate collapse in 1573;
-Hideyoshi wages two failed Korean campaigns (1593, 1597);
-beginning of rise of merchant class;
-ornate architectural styles in marked contrast to somber Muromachi styles;
-new aesthetic sense evident in nanban style of painting (exotic paintings of European priests, traders, southern barbarians, etc.);
-Muromachi-era tea ceremony, ceramics, etc. continue to thrive;
-interest in outside world increases;
-Nobunaga supports Christianity to help suppress Buddhism, but Hideyoshi is suspicious, prohibiting Christianity in 1587, clamping down in 1597;
-end of Nanban trading, beginning of sakoku/kaikin policies.

B. Early Modern

Edo (Tokugawa) (1603-1868):
-period of peace and semi-sakoku, ruled by Tokugawa shoguns, lasting until Fall of Edo 江戸開城 and restoration of emperor in 1868;
-by mid-18th century, Edo largest city in world with population of 1 million;
-strict mibunsei: kuge + 4 classes (shi-nō-kō-shō: 5% 80% 工 商 )  + hinin/eta;
-however, unprecedented intermingling of classes (Sorai considered this the corruption/commercialization of the samurai class);
-sankin kōtai (alternate residence) system ensures that samurai daimyō (warlords in han) remain loyal to shōgun;
-no “individual” rights ( smallest legal unit; contrast with post-Meiji emphasis/obsession with self/individual);
-increasing restrictions/persecutions against Christians sparks failed Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-1638, which marks end of Christians practicing openly;
-despite sakoku policy, knowledge of West keeps trickling in through Rangaku Dutch studies in Dejima in Nagasaki bay;
-flourishing of humanistic, rational, historical, secular perspective of Neo-confucianism日本朱子学 (no longer solely the domain of Buddhist clerics; now dominant legal philosophy)yet, from within this movement occurs a rise of Shintō and kokugaku (national learning) studies, and a renewed interest in Kojiki, Nihon shoki, and Man’yōshū and anti-continental sentiment.

-rise of chōnin status, plebeian culture;
-80% literacy in Edo;
-floating world literature: Matsuo Bashō, Ihara Saikaku, Takizawa Bakin, yomihon, gesaku comic literature, haikai no renga, yūkaku red-light districts such as Yoshiwara, kyōka, ukiyo, shunga, iki, kabuki, bunraku, Chikamatsu plays, etc.

C. Modern

Meiji (1868-1912):
-begins with overthrow of Tokugawa Shogunate, restoration of emperor Meiji, and relocation of capital to Edo-Tokyo;
-after decades of threats and pressures from West to open up, they open up;
-end of ban on Christianity, revocation of mibunsei laws;
-regional daimyō relinquish lands to show support for emperor, as Han system is replaced by prefectures (a blow to samurai, increase in # of rōnin; as we will see, many writers from this disenfranchised, formerly elite class);
-officials from former key han given top positions in new central government;
-efforts to establish 1,000 year old Shintō imperial throne lead to creation of new “invented tradition” of State Shintō (separated from Buddhism with which it had been linked);
-national mythology of divine throne created, kokutai ideas of Mito-han embraced;
-neo-Confucianism still basis for ethics; Buddhism still persists, despite series of anti-Buddhist laws and movements (e.g. 1868 haibutsu kishaku, 1868 shinbutsu bunri law, etc.);
-private ownership legalized with 1873 land tax reform: land owning elites secure monopoly of government through new tax laws.

-however, reacting to thisItagaki Taisuke’s The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement 自由民権運動 (1873-1880s) sought democratic reform, representative government, criticized Meiji oligarchy, and pushed for Meiji Constitution; Itagaki followed with his Aikokusha party and French-inspired Jiyūtō; also: Fukuzawa Yukichi’s liberal treatises; Protestant Christian connection; other anti-oligarchy parties follow, leading to government crackdown;
-Universal Conscription Law of 1873 another blow to samurai class already hurt by 1871 Abolition of Han System act; many refuse to serve in military with lowly peasants; series of former samurai-led rebellions culminating in Saigō Takamori’s Satsuma Rebellion in 1877); more disgruntled samurai as shi-nō-kō-shō continues to be challenged/inverted;
-1889 Meiji Constitution a blow for progressive parties, as it ensured that the small clique of elite Satsuma and Chōshū statesman (later called the genrō) would rule the nation, and enfranchised only men who pay substantial amount in property taxes;
-two major war victories, over Qing Dynasty China in 1894-1895 for control of Korea, and over Russia in 1904-1905 for control of Manchuria and Korea;
-development of modern conscript army, modern monarchy, modern industry, modern financial system, centralized modern state, modern police force/justice system.

-ethos of day can be summed up in phrase/slogan: bunmei kaika (Civilization and Enlightenment);
-yatoi-gaijin such as Ernest Fenollosa, Lafcadio Hearn, Basil Hall Chamberlain, and others teach at universities;
-translation begins of nearly everything Western (philosophy, literature, etc.);
-genbun-itchi slowly displaces old literary style;
-shōsetsu/bungaku now a respectable enterprise;
-Tsubouchi Shōyō translates Shakespeare, advocates psychological realism in his Shōsetsu no shinzui (1885);
-Futabatei Shimei writes “first modern novel” Ukigumo (1887; four characters; critical of materialistic society; depicts anomie/social breakdown);
-Ōgai and Sōseki grapple with the political and literary problems of the age; Ōgai-introduced Romanticism and English-style Realism reign supreme;
-risshin shusse capitalist society vs. anti-materialistic neo-Confucian ethic (tension is a main theme in Botchan);
-debut of naturalist shōsetsu (I-novel) at end of Meiji;
-Major writers from this period include: Tsubouchi Shōyō, Mori Ōgai, Futabatei Shimei, Higuchi Ichiyō, Izumi Kyōka, Shimazaki Tōson, Kunikida Doppo, Natsume Sōseki, and somewhat reactionary, neo-classicists Ozaki Kōyō, Yamada Bimyō, and Kōda Rohan.

Taishō (1912-1926):
-a period of peace and relative prosperity (especially prosperous after WWI);
-Japan becomes one of Big 5 powers at Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and given permanent seat in League of Nations: now “caught up” with West;
-taking advantage of Germany’s defeat and collapse of tsarist Russia, Japan consolidates its position in Asia, expands empire;
-slight power shift from old genrō elite clique to democratic parties and the Diet”Taishō democracy.”

-rise of popular culture, the bourgeoisie;
-commercialization of literature/culture and revolution in mass publishing (enpon in 1926);
-bunkashugi (from bunmei to bunka; birth of bourgeois subjectivism);
-at the same time, increase in leftist-/anarchist-inspired ideas, Marxism, labor unions, Japanese Communist Party in 1922, rise of proletarian writers in 1920s as economic situation worsens;
-increased calls for universal suffrage leads to passing of 1925 General Election Law (made ineffective however w/ 1928 Peace Preservation Law);
-then bam!1923 Tokyo Earthquake destroys Tokyo (downhill from here, according to many): 100,000 dead; much of city (especially old shitamachi) destroyed; city center moves westward).

-experimental modernist fiction;
-prominent writers of this period include: Tayama Katai, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Kajii Motojirō, Nagai Kafū, Satō Haruo, Shiga Naoya and other Shirakaba writers, etc.

Shōwa (1926-1989):
-left suppressed (Communist Party forced underground in 1926, gone by 1933);
-progressive victory with General Election Law (1925; all 25+ males can vote), followed immediately by reactionary Peace Preservation Law (1925; restricts political activities, makes kokutai supreme symbol of nation);
-1931: conquest of Manchuria begins with army acting independently; pioneer settlements begin;
-1933: Japan withdraws from League of Nations; increasing isolation, international criticism;
-1935: rapid rise of militarists; fascism/cult of emperor; Nihonshugi/kokusuishugi nationalism (post-Meiji phenomenon) reaches fever pitch;
-1936: ni-ni-roku jiken, right-wing coup of 1,500 against government; ordered by emperor to stop after several assassinations;
-1937: Marco Polo Bridge incident leads to full-scale invasion of China;
-1937-1945: bloodiest war in human history; 10 million Chinese dead; 3 million Japanese (1 million civilians); several million from around Southeast Asia; 

-Disillusioned writers flee to imagined past (Edo, Heian, etc.): nihon kaiki and tenkō novels from former leftists, Japanese Romantic School . . .;
-attempt to “overcome modernity” and seek other alternatives;
- defeat, occupation/postwar/economic boom/etc…;

Heisei (1989- ):
-otaku culture, muen shakai, anime, manga, pillow-humpers, etc.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Series of Video Lectures by James Cahill (1926-2014) on Chinese Art

A great series of video lectures by the late scholar of Chinese art James Cahill (1926-2014), made shortly before his death;the series represents his ambitious attempt late in life to produce a comprehensive history of Chinese painting. 

*Note:Given the sheer volume of these lectures, I suggest watching them at 1.5 speed [click on cogwheel icon to adjust settings]。

Lecture 1 - Introduction and Pre-Han Pictorial Art

I begin by introducing my three major teachers, and go on to outline the background of the series: early attempts at histories of Chinese painting, photographing and cataloguing projects carried out in the 1960s-70s, changing ideas about how art history should be constructed and written. I introduce Ernst Gombrich as a model for the kind of art-historical narrative I will attempt, but also emphasize the strong tradition of critical and historical writing in China that underlies my account. This first lecture ends with a brief introduction to early pictorial art in China: Neolithic painted pots, hunting-style bronzes, the earliest paintings on silk from Changsha. (Cahill)

Lecture 2 - Han Painting and Pictorial Designs

This lecture considers the growth of pictorial art during the Han dynasty (208 BCE to AD 220), beginning with paintings on silk (including the famous 'flying garment") from the tombs at Changsha, continuing with pictures on tomb objects (mingqi) and lacquer designs, and ending with the remarkable relief pictures on tomb tiles found in Sichuan. Early renderings of space and the beginnings of expressive rushwork are revealed in visual analyses of all these. (Cahill)

Lecture 3 - Six Dynasties Painting and Pictorial Designs

This third lecture, more than two hours long, treats the pictorial art of the variously-named period between the Han and Tang dynasties, a period of political division and warfare during which relative peace in the Yangzi Delta region around Nanjing permitted the emergence there of major artists and a flourishing tradition of picturemaking. Detailed looking at scroll paintings ascribed to one artist, Gu Kaizhi, introduces issues of dating and the faithfulness of copies after a lost original; brief discussions of two early essays open a continuing consideration of the rich Chinese critical and theoretical literature on painting. (Cahill)

Lecture 4A - Tang Dynasty Figure Painting

This lecture is about figure painting of the Tang dynasty (AD 610-907). Tomb paintings of the early Tang, works associated with the legendary figure master Wu Daozi, reliable copies after palace-lady pictures by Zhou Fang and others together with one original, make up a detailed exploration of this greatest age of figure painting in China. (Cahill)

Lecture 4B - Tang Dynasty Landscape Painting

Landscape painting in the Tang dynasty takes two directions: a detailed and colorful style, and the beginnings of an ink-monochrome style. Examples of both in surviving copies and fragments, along with a tomb wall painting. a rubbing from a stone engraving, and the background landscape from a Buddhist image are shown and discussed in this lecture. (Cahill)

Lecture 5 - Five Dynasties Painting: Reliable Works

Another period of political disunity bridging the brief gap (AD 907-960) between two long-lasting dynasties, the Tang and the Song, the Five Dynasties was nonetheless an age of great innovation in landscape and other painting. This lecture uses reliable works of the period and close copies for visual exploration of striking pictorial images that draw the viewer's eye into their intricate spatial systems. (Cahill)

Lecture 6 - Five Dynasties Painting: The Great Landscape Masters

In this same period, five great masters of landscape--Jing Hao and Guan Tong, Dong Yuan and Juran, Li Cheng--brought to this art a new profundity of conception and diversity of styles. Although no surviving work can be firmly accepted as by any one of them, major paintings of high quality and importance are attributed to them, and are given close visual analysis in this lecture, which also introduces new theories and concepts of how landscape imagery can carry profound human meaning. (Cahill)

Lecture 7A: Early Northern Song Landscape

A time of greatest achievement in the development of landscape painting in China, the early Northern Song period saw the emergence of a fully formed, monumental landscape art as achieved by three towering masters, Yan Wengui, Fan Kuan, and Xu Daoning, all represented by extant genuine works. These are explored in detail, along with paintings by some of their followers and imitators. (Cahill)

Lecture 7B: Late Northern Song Landscape and Guo Xi.

This lecture is devoted to the late Northern Song master Guo Xi, the last of the great masters of monumental landscape, beginning with his essay on painting landscape, continuing with a prolonged exploration of his masterwork Early Spring, and ending with a consideration of other paintings ascribed to him. (Cahill)

Lecture 8A: Noblemen Painters of Late Northern Song

After discussions of some large theoretical and methodological issues, this lecture presents paintings by two artists who were members of the Song imperial family, Zhao Lingrang by birth and Wang Shen through marriage. The strengths and limitations of their works are brought out in a discussion of the implications of amateurism in painting. (Cahill)

Lecture 8B: Literati Painters of Northern Song

The beginnings and early stages of the scholar-amateur movement in painting, known first as shidafu hua and later as wenren hua, are presented through works by or attributed to the early literati masters, notably Su Shi or Su Dongpo, Mi Fu, and Li Gonglin. An especially fine painting from the next generation, the Red Cliff handscroll by Qiao Zhongchang, is given a longer, detailed treatment. (Cahill)

Lecture 9A: Li Tang and His Followers

After looking at three late Northern Song handscrolls, one by Wang Ximeng and two others attributed to the brothers Zhao Boju and Zhao Bosu, this lecture is devoted to the major landscapist of that period, Li Tang, and his followers active in the Imperial Academy later in the Southern Song period. The lecture concludes with two more handscrolls by Li Tang followers. (Cahill)

Lecture 9B: Political and Poetic Themes in Southern Song Painting

A consideration of political themes in Southern Song Academy painting, especially in works by Li Tang and his followers, ends with long sections on two subjects of this kind: buffalo and herd boy paintings and paintings of swimming fish. The part that follows, on poetic themes in Southern Song, is largely devoted to works ascribed to Ma Hezhi 馬和之. A great anonymous handscroll of this period, the "Dream Journey in the Xiao-Xiang Region," is shown at length, and followed by shorter treatments of other handscrolls, including those illustrating "Wenji's Return to China." (Cahill)

Lecture 9C: Masters of Representation: The Southern Song Academy

After an opening discussion of the unwarranted neglect of Southern Song Academy masters in studies of our subject, this lecture treats a succession of these masters and their works: paintings of children, of animals and birds, of flowers, of narrative and genre scenes. A handscroll depicting "The West Lake at Hangzhou," paintings of arhats by Liu Songnian 刘松年, and some evocative paintings of figures in various settings conclude the lecture. (Cahill)

Lecture 10A: Bird-and-Flower Painting: The Early Centuries

This lecture is devoted to the first attempt at constructing a style-history of this important subject category in Chinese painting, from its beginnings in the Tang dynasty into the Southern Song. Bird-and-flower paintings that are loosely datable are looked at in close detail, so that the new modes of depiction in successive periods can be traced. The lecture ends with a close look at a handscroll by the late Northern Song master Liang Shimin. (Cahill)

Lecture 10B: Bird-and-Flower Painting: Emperor Huizong and After

Beginning with a long consideration of Cui Bai's 
崔白 "Hare and Magpies" of 1061, this lecture continues by looking at the bird paintings ascribed to Emperor Huizong 徽宗 and offering a new proposal for how these were made. It goes on to show and discuss bird-and-flower works by Southern Song Academy masters, especially Ma Yuan and his son Ma Lin. Continuing with a handscroll of ink-monochrome images by a late Song literatus-artist, it ends with a miscellany of album-leaf paintings in the Academy styles. (Cahill) 

11A - Great Masters of Southern Song: Ma Yuan

This, the first of four lectures on artists who might be called the Four Great Masters of Southern Song Academy painting, introduces and discusses many works by Ma Yuan 馬遠 and his close followers and imitators, mostly landscapes with figures but also small scenes of birds-in-landscape and other subjects. Questions of authorship and authenticity, identifying the artist's hand, are raised and considered in relation to the many works ascribed insecurely to Ma Yuan. (Cahill)

11B - Great Masters of Southern Song: Xia Gui

This long lecture is devoted to Xia Gui, the artist who is, in the speaker's opinion, the greatest of the Four Great Masters. It includes an especially long treatment of his masterwork, the Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains handscroll. A myth or program of this and many other Southern Song Academy paintings, the "lyric journey," is introduced as underlying this scroll and determining its basic structure. Questions of authenticity and problems of constructing a body of reliable works for this master occupy much of the discussion. (Cahill)

11C - Ma Lin and Others: The Lyric Journey

Ma Yuan's son (Ma Lin 馬麟), and the last in a family lineage within the Southern Song Academy, here receives more attention than he is usually given in writings on Chinese painting. His works are seen as carrying almost to excess the practice of choosing and portraying pictorial materials so as to intensify their emotional impact. A selection of paintings exemplifying the "lyric journey" theme, done by artists inside and outside the Academy, is followed by a group of album leaves demonstrating their mastery of multispace compositions with implicit narratives. (Cahill)

11D - From Academy to Chan: Liang Kai

This last of the four Southern Song Academy masters is shown as providing a bridge between that tradition and the new kind of painting associated with Chan (Zen) Buddhism, which will make up the topic of most of the lecture 12 group. The gap between the way Liang Kai 梁楷 is regarded, and his works collected, in China and in Japan also introduces a large problem that complicates the whole concept of Chan painting: why it was preserved almost entirely in Japan and scarcely at all in China.

12A - Paintings of the North: The Jin Dynasty

While the Southern Song Dynasty ruled in the south of China, the Jin dynasty of the Jurchens, a nomadic people, ruled in the north. Chinese artists working under the Jin mostly continued Northern Song traditions, out of touch with new developments in the south. This first part of lecture 12 is devoted to some of their paintings. (Cahill)

12B - The Beginnings of Chan (Zen) Painting and Muqi

This is the first part of a long attempt to deal with the highly problematic subject of Chan painting—that is, painting associated in various ways with the Chan (Zen) sect of Buddhism. Shown and discussed at length are works by and ascribed to the most famous Chan painter, the monk-artist Muqi. (Cahill)

12C - Six Persimmons

This central section of lecture 12 concentrates on a single work probably by Muqi: his famous small picture of "Six Persimmons." Viewers are made to gaze at this simple but mysterious work for a long time, while our lecturer attempts answers to the central, ultimately unanswerable question: what is Chan painting, and how does it differ from literati painting? (Cahill)

12D - Sōgenga and Chan Landscapes

Our final lecture, which winds up the series (except for a postlude and two addenda), deals with the many Chan-associated paintings preserved in Japan that are grouped here, loosely, under the term Sōgenga. It concludes with the surviving works from two series of "Eight Views of the Xiao-Xiang Region," one attributed to Muqi 牧溪法常, the other by Yujian—paintings that can be taken as representing the last stage in the long development of landscape painting in China that has been the central subject of this series. (Cahill)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Boston Univ Professor M David Eckel's 24 Lectures on Buddhism

Here's an excellent series of introductory lectures on Buddhism, by Boston Univ Professor M David Eckel;24 lectures in all。「cc」を押せばまあまあ正確な英語字幕が出る。

01(/24) What is Buddhism

02(/24) India at the Time of the Buddha

03(/24) The Doctrine of Reincarnation

04(/24) The Story of the Buddha

05(/24) All is Suffering...this one is on the four noble truths, including the truth of suffering: all is suffering (sarvam duḥkham).... you will note that in this video he addresses the old question "what endures in Buddhist transmigration if there is no self" from around the 25:20 mark。

06(/24) The Path to Nirvana

07(/24) The Buddhist Monastic Community

08(/24) Buddhist Art and Architecture

09(/24) Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia

10(/24) Mahayana Buddhism and the Bodhisattva Ideal... This is the segment on Mahayana [Great Vehicle] Buddhism, the parable of the burning house, the definition/function of the boddhisatva, etc

11(/24) Celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

12(/24) Emptiness...this one is particularly excellent

13(/24) Buddhist Philosophy

14(/24) Buddhist Tantra

15(/24) The Theory and Practice of the Mandala

16(/24) The First Diffusion of the Dharma in Tibet

17(/24) The Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

18(/24) The Dalai Lama

19(/24) The Origins of Chinese Buddhism

20(/24) The Classical Period of Chinese Buddhism

21(/24) The Origins of Japanese Buddhism

22(/24) Honen, Shinran and Nichiren

23(/24) Zen

24(/24) Buddhism in America

Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Lectures on Buddhism

You are going to want to listen to these three excellent short lectures on Buddhism by Uni of North Carolina Prof Grant Hardy (*note: the last 10 min or so of the lecture are missing):

① great summary of life & teachings of the Buddha: 

② on Japanese Buddhism from Saichō 最澄 (767-822) to Nichiren 日蓮 (1222-1282):

③ on Buddhism's development in China:

*To purchase the podcasts to all 36 lectures [Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition], click here (who purchases things these days?):

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Study Guide: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s “The Nose” (Hana; 1916)

Study Guide: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s “The Nose” (Hana; 1916)

Original: “Hana,” originally published in Shinshichō, February 1916 (Click here for Aozora Bunko version).
Translation: Translated by Jay Rubin; included in his Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories (Penguin Classics, 2006). To purchase Rubin’s translation of the story, click here.

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke 芥川龍之介 (1892-1927): Novelist. Born in Tokyo. He published “Hana” (The Nose) in 1916 while studying at the Tokyo Imperial University and the start of his literary career was highly regarded by Natsume Sōseki. After graduation, he taught English as a part-time instructor at the Naval Engineering College and published “Imogayu” (Yam Gruel) (1916), “Hōkyōnin no shi” (Death of a Christian) (1918), and “Rashōmon” (1917), his first short story. After resigning from the Naval Engineering College in 1919, he went full-time into literary activity as a staff writer for the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun. In 1927, he committed suicide at the age of 36. He was the father of Hiroshi Akutagawa and Yasushi Akutagawa. (National Diet Library). (Click here for Aozora Bunko texts.)

Study Questions

1.      Discuss the significance of the main character’s name: Zenchi Naigū 禅智内供. How does this name contribute to the ironic tone of the work?

2.      Describe Zenchi’s nose. How do people treat him? What is his attitude toward his nose, both in public and in private?

3.      Why do you think Akutagawa made his protagonist a Buddhist priest? How does this add to the irony to the story?

4.      Identify the point of view. How would you describe the narrator’s style? Are there differences in style between the original and translation? Explain.

5.      The story was written in Taishō 5. What year is this in the western (i.e. Gregorian) calendar? How is this historical context relevant to the story? (Hint: the Meiji era is over, Japan has now “caught up” to the West, etc.)

6.      Akutagawa is often regarded as the representative writer of the Taishō era. Name four other prominent Japanese writers who were active during this period. Compare and contrast.

7.      Compare the translation with the original. Can you find any mistakes, omissions, or changes? Does the translation lean more toward literal translation (chokuyaku) or approximate translation (iyaku)? Explain.

8.      What famous writer praised this work? What particularly aspects of the work do you think he admired?

9.      List four other stories by Akutagawa. How do they differ from this story? How are they similar?

10.  Describe the nose-shortening procedure that Zenchi undergoes. Is it successful?

11.  How do people treat Zenchi after the procedure? Is his initial problem resolved through the procedure? Explain.

12.  Discuss the final scene. How/why does this happen? Is there a rational explanation for it, or is it some kind of miracle or divine intervention? Explain Zenchi’s reaction.

13.  Is there a moral lesson to this story? If so, explain it. Can the work be read as an allegory?

Literary Terms

1.      Allegory: an extended metaphor; comprised of structural (rather than textual) symbolism. In an allegory the characters/action/scenery corresponds more or less directly to certain spiritual/political/psychological struggles. For example, in Sōseki’s “Ten Nights of Dreams” (Yume Jūya; 1908), each of the ten dreams are an allegory of modern concerns. According to Seats, this is the first Japanese modern “allegorical text.” Other examples: Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, Kafka’s The Castle, Orwell’s 1984.