Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Searching for the law: Ennin's journal as a key to the Heian appropriation of Tang culture
by Palmer, Jesse Dalton, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2009, 328; 3380358
Abstract (Summary)

Ennin (794-868) traveled in China from 838 to 847 as part of the final Heian embassy to the Tang. In both Asian and Western scholarship, Ennin's journal has been valued primarily as a historical source for daily life in Tang China (618-907). However, these readings assume the transparency of the text and ignore Ennin's role in crafting the narrative. Shifting focus to Ennin's subjectivity and resituating Ennin's journal in its Japanese cultural context enables us to see the journal as a negotiation of cultural identity that reveals the significance of the Tang to the Heian court. Following this trajectory within the journal, as well as in its afterlife and influence on the developing Heian journal culture, helps map out the dynamics of Heian cultural appropriation and translation, which formed the basis for much of subsequent Japanese culture.

I begin with a discussion of East Asian precedents for Ennin's journal in chapter one. Chapters two and three explore Ennin's records of rituals, both Buddhist and otherwise. These passages are central to Ennin's purpose in traveling to China and from them, the idea of ritual as cultural technology emerges in full relief. Chapter four examines Ennin's relationship to the Tang bureaucracy, primarily through his formal letters to and from Tang bureaucrats. These letters provide an example of genre and writing as cultural technology and offer insight into the relationship of Buddhism and the imperial state in East Asia. Chapter five follows Ennin to Mt. Wutai, where his account of the mountain as well as his transmission of ritual practices and monastic architecture opens the way for the reconfiguration of sacred space in Japan. Chapter six analyses Ennin's account of the Huichang suppression of Buddhism, revisiting the issue of the relationship between Buddhism and the state. In the final chapter, I examine Ennin's impact on the subsequent journal tradition. I argue that Ennin's journal represents a pivotal moment in Japan's cultural evolution, and link the increasing significance of the journal genre to the development and popularization of esoteric Buddhism in the Heian court.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Klein, Susan B.
Commitee: Fuller, Michael, Walthall, Anne
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: East Asian Languages and Literatures - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian literature, History, Asian Studies
Keywords: Buddhism, Diary, Heian, Japanese-Chinese cultural interaction, Tang
Publication Number: 3380358
ISBN: 9781109508710