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Title: Rewriting Nara Buddhism: Sutra Transcription in Early Japan
Authors: Lowe, Bryan Daniel
Advisors: Stone, Jacqueline S
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Buddhism
Japanese religions
Manuscript cultures
Nara period
State Buddhism
Sutra copying
Subjects: Religion
Religious history
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the practice of copying Buddhist scripture in Japan from the late seventh through early ninth centuries. It draws on a rich documentary record to analyze the institutional, ritual, cosmological, and social meanings of sutra copying in the Japanese Buddhist tradition. It traces the emergence of scriptoria across the archipelago in the eighth century, assesses the significance of ritualized forms of writing from the perspectives of patrons and scribes, uncovers the religious aspirations that inspired people to copy scripture, and explores the political and discursive functions of Buddhism in early Japan. Transcribing scripture was never a simple act of copying a text but a ritualized practice performed by people from diverse social and geographic backgrounds that helped them realize both this- and other-worldly ambitions. Sutra copying is significant for the academic study of Buddhism in the Nara period (710-784), because it represents one of the few practices for which there are extant sources to document the religious activities of a wide cross-section of the population. This study will use the case of sutra copying to challenge dominant scholarly narratives regarding Nara Buddhism. These include models that have classified the religion of the period as "state Buddhism" (<italic>kokka Bukkyo</italic>), as well as more recent attempts to highlight the activities of individuals and communities working outside of official structures. I show how these models emerged out of debates in modern Buddhist reform movements, twentieth-century projects to construct a national history, and post-war suspicions over the power of the state. Rather than assuming that religious practices are best characterized by stable social categories such as "state Buddhism" or "popular Buddhism," this dissertation explores a single practice from multiple perspectives across a broad range of the population. It argues that sutra copying united individuals from various backgrounds while simultaneously generating social distinctions between them
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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