Organized Panel Session
Although even a cursory view of any religious culture reveals worlds bursting with colors, figures, and imagery, the study of text continues to dominate the field of Asian religious studies with the result that visual culture is frequently relegated to the “popular” as a sort of “bible for the illiterate” and the potential contribution of art works left underexplored. This panel seeks to interrogate and explore the cross-section between religion, politics, gender, text, and the visual through some of the most important illustrated narrative scrolls of premodern Japan in order to revaluate the religious motivations and meaning of visual depiction. As LeFebvre demonstrates in his examination of domestic terrorism in Heian Japan, visual cues in the Illustrated Scroll of Major Counselor Ban are the key to opening up a world where historical events embody moral lessons and images served as tools of remonstration among the cultural elite. Through the Seven Tengu Scrolls, Swanson utilizes depictions of corruption to explore critiques of temple practices in medieval Japan and the religious ideals behind such polemics. With a turn toward the personal, Kashnig explores a world that is intimate and close at hand. Her presentation on the Hungry Ghost Scrolls shows how gendered visual portrayal has implications for individuals, society, and the cosmos. Chikamoto, on the other hand, takes a step back to compare a set of three scrolls with ties to Kōfukuji to situate depictions of kami, buddhas, and evil and the differing conceptualizations of non-duality that define the medieval religious experience.