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Imagining Exile in Heian Japan

Imagining Exile in Heian Japan: Banishment in Law, Literature, and Cult

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Imagining Exile in Heian Japan
    Book Description:

    For over three hundred years during the Heian period (794-1185), execution was customarily abolished in favor of banishment. During the same period, exile emerged widely as a concern within literature and legend, in poetry and diaries, and in the cultic imagination, as expressed in oracles and revelations. While exile was thus one sanction available to the state, it was also something more: a powerful trope through which members of court society imagined the banishment of gods and heavenly beings, of legendary and literary characters, and of historical figures, some transformed into spirits.

    This compelling and well-researched volume is the first in English to explore the rich resonance of exile in the cultural life of the Japanese court. Rejecting the notion that such narratives merely reflect a timeless literary archetype, Jonathan Stockdale shows instead that in every case exile emerged from particular historical circumstances-moments in which elites in the capital sought to reveal and to re-imagine their world and the circulation of power within it. By exploring the relationship of banishment to the structures of inclusion and exclusion upon which Heian court society rested, Stockdale moves beyond the historiographical discussion of "center and margin" to offer instead a theory of exile itself.

    Stockdale's arguments are situated in astute and careful readings of Heian sources. His analysis of a literary narrative, theTale of the Bamboo Cutter, for example, shows how Kaguyahime's exile from the "Capital of the Moon" to earth implicitly portrays the world of the Heian court as a polluted periphery. His exploration of one of the most well-known historical instances of banishment, that of Sugawara Michizane, illustrates how the political sanction of exile could be met with a religious rejoinder through which an exiled noble is reinstated in divine form, first as a vengeful spirit and then as a deity worshipped at the highest levels of court society.

    Imagining Exile in Heian Japanis a model of interdisciplinary scholarship that will appeal to anyone interested in the interwoven connections of early and classical Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5497-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction: The Moon of Exile
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the earliest work of Heian prose fiction, a radiant princess gazes nightly as the full moon of the eighth month approaches, awaiting the moment when people from the moon will come to escort her back from exile. At the height of that literary tradition, the hero of theTale of Genjireenacts the same gesture, gazing at the full moon of the eighth month from his own place of exile while speaking longingly of the “capital of the moon” (tsuki no miyako). And in the wake of that literature, in a work of nostalgia for a past courtly aesthetic,...

  5. 2 Origin Myths: Susano-o, Orikuchi Shinobu, and the Imagination of Exile in Early Japan
    (pp. 17-42)

    The earliest example of a narrative imagining exile in Japan appears in the oldest extant chronicle of the Yamato court, theKojiki,orRecord of Ancient Matters.In the well-known sequence from that myth-history, theKojikirelates how the god Susano-o was banished not once, but twice: first by decree of the divine progenitor Izanagi and then, following further transgressions on Susano-o’s part, by council of the myriad deities. Following this second decree, theKojikirecounts Susano-o’s descent from the High Heavenly Plain to the ancient province of Izumo, where his character undergoes a dramatic shift.¹ Rather than continuing to...

  6. 3 The Radiance of Exile: The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and The Tale of Genji
    (pp. 43-62)

    Although neither the precise date nor the author ofThe Tale of the Bamboo Cutter(Taketori monogatari) is known,¹ it is considered the oldest extantmonogatari(prose tale) written in Japanese, dating to around 900 CE. This idea is echoed within Heian sources as well:The Tale of Genjiitself refers back to theBamboo Cutteras “the ancestor first to appear of themonogatari.”² The story—involving a child found in a bamboo grove by a wood cutter, who grows into a beautiful woman courted by nobles before revealing her identity as an immortal princess from the moon—is...

  7. 4 Spirits in Exile: Sugawara no Michizane and the Vengeful Spirit Cults
    (pp. 63-84)

    It would be difficult to find a historical case of exile that figured more prominently in the Heian imagination than that of the statesman, scholar, and poet Sugawara no Michizane. As is well known, Michizane lost out in a power struggle at court and was “demoted” to the distant Dazaifu in 901, where he died in 903. In the following years, a number of misfortunes struck his opponents at the Heian court, resulting in the deaths of his primary rival, two princes, and several members of the nobility. For many in the capital, the pattern of victims suggested a single...

  8. 5 Cosmologies of Law: Exile in the Legal Imagination
    (pp. 85-113)

    In the final section of theNihon Ryōiki—an early Heian work devoted to explaining the miraculous workings of the Buddhist dharma—a story is told concerning Emperor Saga, the reigning emperor around the time of the text’s compilation (ca. 822).¹ According to the story, Saga was in fact none other than the reincarnation of the esteemed priest Jakusen, who had died some years prior to Saga’s birth. As evidence of Saga’s karmic merit, the text mentions an example of the emperor’s compassionate rule: “Without fail, imperial law executes murderers. This emperor, however, proclaiming an era of ‘spreading benevolence’ (kōnin),...

  9. 6 Conclusion: On the Margins of Japanese Religion
    (pp. 114-124)

    If the preceding chapters have treated myth, literature, cult, and law as separate fields of inquiry—a move that reflects contemporary disciplinary boundaries more than the historical nature of things—it is time now to bring those inquiries together within a single frame. And if the preceding chapters have explored moments that seem irrevocably “past,” it is time now to connect those moments to the present. To accomplish both aims, we can focus upon a single historical figure, that of the emperor who died in exile at the end of the Heian period, the “greatest vengeful spirit in the history...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 125-156)
  11. Character Glossary
    (pp. 157-158)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-180)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-183)