Organized Panel Session
The 13th to 17th centuries in China, Korea, and Japan saw efforts to make Buddhism more accessible to laypeople; in each country, various groups of itinerant monks, nuns, and professional storytellers spread Buddhist messages to the general public through performance. The performers themselves occupied a role somewhere between what we might today consider religious representative and simple entertainer. This panel considers performance techniques, texts and props, setting, and modes of messaging used by performer-proselytizers in premodern China, Korea, and Japan to show that these itinerant groups represent an important convergence point of religious messaging, entertainment, and economics, and helped make Buddhism a crucial part of premodern popular culture. Rostislav Berezkin uses descriptions of a performance by an itinerant nun in the novel Ping yao zhuan (Pacification of Demons, ca. 1620) to reconstruct the setting and techniques of the performance of baojuan (precious scroll) narratives during the Ming dynasty. Hyangsoon Yi analyzes the economic aspects of itinerant performances in Chŏson Korea (1392-1910), through depictions in Buddhist paintings of chŏl kŏllipp’ae, or “temple performers,” groups of folk musicians and dancers. Haley Blum examines Buddhist messaging in otogizōshi, a short story genre performed in private and public settings, and considers the negotiation between religious education and entertainment in premodern Japan. Two experts of Chinese and Korean performance will lead the discussion: Margaret Wan, who specializes in Chinese vernacular literature and performance tradition, and Chan E. Park, who specializes in Korean traditional oral narratives and performance.