Portraits of Chōgen: The Transformation of Buddhist art in Early Medieval Japan – By John M. Rosenfield

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  • RITES AND RITUALS OF KASHMIRI BRAHMINS.By Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani. New Delhi: Pentagon Press(for the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation),2010. Pp. 237. Cloth, $32.00.

    Any book focusing on the religious life of the KashmiriPandit community is welcome. This understudied commu-nity was settled for more than a millennium in the Srinagarvalley but was forced to relocate en masse in the early1990s because of sectarian violence in and around Srina-gar. The Pandits have now completely dispersed to Jammu(about 300,000) or Delhi (about 100,000). Because of thepressures of modernity and globalization, the fact of relo-cation, the absence of authoritative religious gures, theretraining of priesthoods, and the shift away from primaryuse of Kashmiri, the earlier forms of Pandit ritual (andPandit identity) are beginning to disappear. Toshkhani, aliterary critic and poet, has not taken into account the his-torical and textual work of A. Sanderson or the cutting-edge parallel studies of A. Michaels in the KathmanduValley in Nepal. However, this book does well to recountmany of the important rituals themselves. Most of these arebased on the Laugaksi Grhyasu tra of the Kathaka rescen-sion of the Black (Krsn a) Yajurveda and locally producedperformance manuals based on Laugaksi. This itself isimportant to the study of domestic ritual in India becausethis text is rarely utilized elsewhere. Ritual drawn fromthese texts is supplemented by Tantric practice adaptedfrom the well-known Saiva schools of Kashmir propoundedin the eighth century and later by Abhinavagupta andmany others. Toshkhani describes in some detail the child-hood rites of passage (sam skara), initiation into brahmani-cal practice (upanayana), marriage and funeral rites,obligatory daily ritual, re (homa) and temple ritual (pu ja ),important festivals (such as Maha sivaratr), the use of cos-mograms (yantra and mandala), and local variants of muralpainting and astrology, and discusses some of the other for-mative texts in the history of Pandit ritualism such as theNlamata Puran a. This is an important volume for scholarsinterested in the history of Indian ritual praxis or thehistory of Kashmir and the Pandit community.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa

    East AsiaCONSTRUCTING CHINAS JERUSALEM: CHRIS-TIANS, POWER, AND PLACE IN CONTEMPORARYWENZHOU. By Nanlai Cao. Contemporary Issues in Asiaand the Pacic Series. Stanford, CA: Stanford UniversityPress, 2011. Pp. xii + 216. $18.95.

    Formerly a dissertation in the department of anthropol-ogy at Australia National University, this book is based onethnographic eldwork in the Wenzhou region on the south-east coast of China from 2004 to 2006. The focus is theentrepreneurial boss Christians who, in the last thirty

    years, have been at the vanguard both of Wenzhous transi-tion into the neoliberal market economy and of the evangeli-cal Christian revival that has transformed the religiouslandscape in this region. Cao delineates especially theagency of the Wenzhounese in the remaking of both Chris-tian and Chinese cultural identity while also observing howthese developments have perpetuated a patriarchal andpaternalistic form of religion consistent with the classicallyconservative Confucian tradition, and forged new forms ofclass hierarchies and stratications between the haves andhave-nots in the urban arena and vis--vis rural migrationdynamics. As Jerusalem was the center of the rst-centuryChristian movement, so also do contemporary WenzhouneseChristians understand themselves as being at the forefrontof the religious and economic transformation of China in apost-Maoist sociopolitical context. But traditional theoreticaldichotomies are dismantled in the process as these bossChristians not only have emerged as key players(patrons) in the local and national political economy butalso lead congregational networks that are neither formallyregistered nor part of the informal (underground) arena.The result is a fascinating glimpse into the business ofindigenous Chinese religion with signicant implications foranthropological and socioeconomic studies of Christianity inthe late modern world.

    Amos YongRegent University School of Divinity

    JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY: HERMENEUTICS ONSCRIPTURE. By Junchi Isomae. Oakville, CT: EquinoxPublishing, 2010. Pp. 189. Paper, $32.95.

    Known for his seminal work in the theory of religion andShinto studies (e.g., Kindai Nihon no shky gensetsu to nokeifu [2003]), Isomae, in this long-awaited volume, offers aninvaluable study of the Kojiki and Nihonshoki (or Kiki). Hedeparts from the usual textually specic studies of theancient texts per se to focus on readers responses, askingwhy these ancient texts have continued to be read over theages and how different worlds ofmeaning over the centurieshave created new textual interpretations for disparate social,institutional, and political ends. Earlier versions of four chap-ters in the volume have originally appeared in MonumentaNipponica, the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, and soon. Unfortunately, a light editorial hand has allowed uneventranslations overall, which is particularly unwelcome giventhe authors penchant for arcane literary theories and denseMarxist historiography. This can be very frustrating becauseIsomaes discussion of textual hermeneutics, Shinto andmyth, canonicity, and myth and nationalism is often pro-foundly insightful. The introductory chapter, Hermeneuticson the Theory of Sacred Texts andNostalgia towardHistoricalOrigins, is marred by an overly literal translation style thatmakes it especially hard to decipher. Butwading through this,readers will be rewarded by chapter 1, National History,Shinto and Myth: General Remarks on the History and Inter-pretation of the Kiki, which offers a useful overview of the

    Religious Studies Review VOLUME 37 NUMBER 3 SEPTEMBER 2011


  • key postwar streams of interpretation of Japanesemythology.Chapter 4, Myth and Rationality: Understanding God in theEarly-Modern and Modern Periods, and chapter 5, Mythand Nationalism: Motoori Norinagas Creation Myths, are atreasure house of provocative ideas about the power of theKiki in Japanese politics, national memory, and identity.Despite its aws, this book is essential for a nuanced under-standing of the complex ways the Kiki have been utilizedthroughout Japanese history, particularly with the rise ofState Shinto in the modern period.

    Mark MacWilliamsSt. Lawrence University

    NATURES EMBRACE: JAPANS AGING URBAN-ITES AND NEW DEATH RITES. By Satsuki Kawano.Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010. Pp. ix + 220.Cloth, $47.00; paper, $27.00.

    In this intriguing study, Kawano examines changingmortuary practices and shifting attitudes to end-of-lifechoices among Japans aging urbanites. Based on eldworkconducted with one specic group, the Grave-Free PromotionSociety of Japan (GFPS), this study explores how the practiceof scattering ashes in natural sites is emerging as an alterna-tive to the more common practice of interring ashes in inher-ited multigenerational graves. Kawano argues that ashscattering represents one solution to the challenges posed bylimited space in ancestral graves and the uncertainty that inJapans postindustrial society, descendents will performappropriate memorial rituals. She also reasons that choosingto have ones ashes scattered is a way of controlling how oneis memorialized. This practice is certainly the preferredchoice of the members of GFPS, but because this is the onlygroup she investigated, it is unclear how representative thesemembers are of the general aging population. Nonetheless,she places her study of GFPS within a valuable historicaloverview of modern Japanese mortuary and memorial prac-tices, and effectively argues that this groups response tochallenges posed by post-WorldWar II Japans shifting demo-graphics is but onemethodwithin a diverse history of how thedead are and choose to be commemorated.

    Emily AndersonWashington State University

    IMPERIAL POLITICS AND SYMBOLICS INANCIENT JAPAN: THE TENMU DYNASTY, 650-800.By Herman Ooms. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press,2009. Pp. 376. $50.00.

    Ooms, an authority on Japans early Tokugawa period(1570-1680), seeks to disabuse modern minds of the notionthat Shinto , upheld by many as Japans indigenous religion,presumably reaches seamlessly from the ancient past toJapans present. He argues correctly that many features ofShinto were actually constructed by the seventh-centuryemperor Temmu. Ooms is on less solid ground, however, incontending that Temmu recongured the courts legitima-tion system by adapting Taoist elements from China. During

    the mid-sixth century, Buddhism had been championed atthe Yamato court by the parvenu Soga clan, who sought tousurp the power of clans associated with the indigenoustraditions. By 592, the Soga managed to place their own ruleron the thronethe empress Suikormly establishing Bud-dhism at the court. But after 673, Temmu strove diligently,and successfully, to reverse his predecessors China-oriented reforms and to redene court authority by revivingpre-Buddhist court religious traditions (such as the daijo -saienthronement rite) and by strengthening links with the Iseshrine. It was under Temmu that the name of Amaterasurst appears in a contemporary historical record. Temmusmodications were an attempt to restore the political reali-ties of pre-Buddhist Japan. But little in Temmus modica-tions were identiably Taoist. The data that Ooms adduces asTaoist are often just elements of medieval Chinese culturethat non-Taoists (of that period and later) misconstrued asTaoist. Future studies of this material should be more fullygrounded in the facts of Six-Dynasties/Tang Taoism.

    Russell KirklandUniversity of Georgia

    HERO AND DEITY: TRAN HUNG DAO AND THERESURGENCE OF POPULAR RELIGION INVIETNAM. By Pham Quynh Phuong. Chiang Mai, Thailand:Mekong Press, 2009. Pp. xi + 227. THB 625, $25.00.

    Worshiped at public temples, pilgrimage sites, andprivate shrines, the thirteenth-century martial gure knownas Saint Tran (Tran Hung Dao) is the object of nationalistpride among Vietnamese from all walks of life. He is remem-bered for twice defeating Mongol invaders, venerated as acultural and national hero, and worshiped as a divine pro-tector against malevolent spirits that bring disease and mis-fortune. Once derided and suppressed as superstitious, theworship of Saint Tran is now celebrated as a source ofnational identity and unity, essential to state building. Thisvolume is one of the most convincing, penetrating, and sen-sitive analyses to come out of the recent spate of scholarshipon contemporary Vietnamese popular religion and medium-ship traditions. Based on ethnographic work conducted innorthern Vietnammainly Hanoithe study is rich with localdetail, telling vignettes, and the voices of not only mediumsbut also their devotees and clients. The author deftly situatesher study within multiple contexts, locating the cult withinthe discourse of national identity and unity, the implicationsof the academic production of knowledge about popular reli-gion, contestation over local sacred sites related to the saint,and the everyday lives of a range of devotees, male andfemale, from high-ranking ofcials to ordinary workers. Thisvolume will prove to be essential reading for scholars inter-ested in Vietnamese religions, the contemporary religiousresurgence in Southeast Asia, popular religion and statebuilding, the phenomenon of female mediumship in Asianreligions, and the interface of religion and economic reform.

    Cuong T. MaiUniversity of Vermont

    Religious Studies Review VOLUME 37 NUMBER 3 SEPTEMBER 2011


  • PORTRAITS OF CHO GEN: THE TRANSFORMA-TION OF BUDDHIST ART IN EARLY MEDIEVALJAPAN. By John M. Roseneld. Japanese Visual CultureSeries, vol. 1. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2011. Pp. 296; 162 plates, 2maps. $132.00.

    In this beautifully produced book, Roseneld, HarvardUniversity professor emeritus of Japanese art, has written asuperb account of the state of Japanese Buddhism at a pivotalmoment in time, through the lens of S. Chogen (1121-1206),the monk who led the restoration of Japanese Buddhismsgreatest national symbol, the temple complex of Todaiji inNara, which was destroyed in a ruthless civil war in 1180.Although few of the products of Chogens efforts at Todaijihave survived, Roseneld interweaves documentary sourcesand extant imagery to bring this tumultuous age to life. Inthe process, he explicates how renewed contacts with Chinathen played a critical role in the faiths transmission, impact-ing both developments within Japanese Buddhism and itsrelated material culture. His chapters address wide-rangingtopics including reasons for the unusual architectural styleadopted for the restored Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) atTodaiji, the renewed realism in painted and sculpted icons,the history of East Asian portraiture generally and priestportraiture in particular, and the uses of Buddhist ritualobjects. Roseneld explores the complex interpersonaldynamics that shaped Buddhisms reception in Japanthrough a discussion of Chogens relations with monks ofother sects, esteemed lineages of Buddhist sculptors, politi-cians, and lay patrons. This excellent book is a rarity in thatRosenelds clear writing and careful explanations makethis complex topic accessible to nonspecialists while concur-rently, his use of diverse primary sources, includingChogens own memoir (translated in an appendix), distin-guishes it as an invaluable resource for specialists as well.

    Patricia J. GrahamUniversity of Kansas

    THE CONSTANT AND CHANGING FACES OF THEGODDESS: GODDESS TRADITIONS OF ASIA. Editedby Deepak Shimkhada and Phyllis K. Herman. New Castle,UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. Pp. xi + 294.$79.99.

    This edited volume collects selected papers given at a2005 conference on goddess traditions of Asia. Like someconference anthologies, this volume has an overly ambitioushistorical and geographic coverage and lacks an overarchingmethodological and theoretical direction. The studies take avariety of disciplinary approaches, ranging from sociologyand anthropology to religious studies and history, and theyrange in scope from Korea, India, and Vietnam to China andHong Kong. The goddesses covered include Mago of Korea;Buddhist dakinis; Hindu goddesses such as Bharat Ma, Sita,Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Saraswati, and Goma; and the ChineseMazu and various incarnations of Guanyin in Chinese Bud-dhism. Unfortunately, the editors fail to offer cross-culturalinsights beyond generic and problematic references to the

    divine feminine or the Goddess. Neither the editors norany of the authors offer a denition of the frequently invokedcategory the Goddess and so miss the chance to explore theinterpretive and analytical implications of this unquestionedcategory, especially the tendency to slip all too easily intonormative claims and ideological heavy-handedness. Thechapters that do make signicant contributions are too fewand all too brief. Nevertheless, the...