Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - From the Demon Gate to the Capital: Jien and the Restructuring of Tendai Ritual Space

Friday, March 23
12:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: McKinley, Mezzanine Level

In 1205, Jien (1155-1225) embarked on a major religious project in which he established the Great Radiance Ritual (daishijōkōhō) at Shirakawabō, located in the center of the Heian capital. The Great Radiance Ritual was based on a major esoteric Buddhist ritual that was initially performed solely on Mt. Hiei, located in the peripheral region of the capital and in the direction of the “Demon Gate.” This paper will illustrate the innovations that were employed when this ritual was transported into the urban space of the capital. Not only were there alterations made in the architectural and physical space of the ritual, but the very purpose of the ritual and the theories of how it was understood to “work” was also modified to address new social concerns. The rituals performed within the capital purported to subjugate and pacify vengeful spirits, which Jien stressed were responsible for the rise of the military class that threatened the authority of the imperial and aristocratic families in the capital. The establishment of these new architectural structures for the performance of the Great Radiance Ritual allowed Jien to re-structure the physical space of the ritual and provided him with the opportunity to imbue it with new meaning, theorizing the ritual with Tendai exoteric-esoteric thought. The innovations made both in the physical space of the ritual and in Jien’s re-conceptualization of the purpose of the ritual, I argue, need to be understood as responding to specific social realities at the turn of the 13th century. 

Eric H. Swanson

Harvard University, Massachusetts

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1 - From the Demon Gate to the Capital: Jien and the Restructuring of Tendai Ritual Space



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