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The Seven Tengu Scrolls

The Seven Tengu Scrolls: Evil and the Rhetoric of Legitimacy in Medieval Japanese Buddhism

Haruko Wakabayashi
Copyright Date: 2012
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    The Seven Tengu Scrolls
    Book Description:

    This is a study of visual and textual images of the mythical creaturetengufrom the late Heian (897-1185) to the late Kamakura (1185-1333) periods. Popularly depicted as half-bird, half-human creatures with beaks or long noses, wings, and human bodies,tengutoday are commonly seen as guardian spirits associated with the mountain ascetics known asyamabushi.In the medieval period, however, the character oftengumost often had a darker, more malevolent aspect. Haruko Wakabashi focuses in this study particularly ontenguas manifestations of the Buddhist concept of Māra (orma), the personification of evil in the form of the passions and desires that are obstacles to enlightenment. Her larger aim is to investigate the use of evil in the rhetoric of Buddhist institutions of medieval Japan. Through a close examination of tengu that appear in various forms and contexts, Wakabayashi considers the functions of a discourse on evil as defined by the Buddhist clergy to justify their position and marginalize others.Early chapters discuss Buddhist appropriations oftenguduring the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries in relation to the concept of ma. Multiple interpretations ofmadeveloped in response to changes in society and challenges to the Buddhist community, which recruitedtenguin its efforts to legitimize its institutions. The highlight of the work discusses in detail the thirteenth-century narrative scrollTengu zōshi(also known as theShichi Tengu-e,or theSeven Tengu Scrolls), in which monks from prominent temples in Nara and Kyoto and leaders of "new" Buddhist sects (Pure Land and Zen) are depicted astengu.Through a close analysis of theTengu zōshi's pictures and text, the author reveals one aspect of the critique against Kamakura Buddhism and howtenguimages were used to express this in the late thirteenth century. She concludes with a reexamination of the meaning oftenguand a discussion of howmawas essentially socially constructed not only to explain the problems that plague this world, but also to justify the existence of an institution that depended on the presence of evil for its survival.Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, Wakabayashi provides a thoughtful and innovative analysis of history and religion through art.The Seven Tengu Scrollswill therefore appeal to those with an interest in Japanese art, history, and religion, as well as in interdisciplinary approaches to socio-cultural history.36 illus., 4 in color

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6114-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. XIII-XX)

    The mythological creature known astenguhas had a long and complicated history in Japan. The earliest known reference totenguin Japan is found in the eighth-centuryNihon shoki(The Chronicles of Japan). The word “tengu” originated in China, wheretian gou,as its literal meaning “celestial dog” suggests, refers to a comet or an animal.² Thetengupopularly known in Japan today have beaks or long noses, wings, and human bodies, and are often disguised asyamabushi(mountain ascetics).Yamabushithemselves worshiptenguas guardians of the mountains, where much of the mountain ascetics’ religious training takes place....


    • 1 From Malign Spirit to Manifestation of Ma
      (pp. 3-31)

      Strange phenomena (kaii) were taken seriously by the people of medieval Japan.¹ Rumbling mountains, cracks found in sacred images, the cries of foxes—all are frequently mentioned in the diaries of aristocrats as good or bad omens.Mononoke(spirits), which includedtenguin Heian court literature, were thought to be everywhere, causing natural disasters, sickness, and death. The celebrated tenth-century essayist Sei Shōnagon (c. 966–?) notes,

      Chest trouble. Illnesses caused by malign spirits. Beriberi. Illnesses that cannot be properly identified yet make people lose their appetite.²

      In an early fourteenth-century narrative scroll, theKasuga gongen genki-e(The Miracles of...

    • 2 Tengudō, the Realm of Tengu
      (pp. 32-52)

      Mappō, or the Age of the Final Dharma, held different meanings for various groups within the Buddhist community. Natural disasters and political upheavals were interpreted as signs ofmappō,as were attachment to secular power by high-ranking clergy and the increasing violence of armed monks.¹ For those who sought salvation, the difficulty of attaining their goal during such troubling times encouraged the creation of new practices and interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings. It was during this apocalyptic era that the concepts ofmadōandtengudōemerged as one of the many solutions to the Final Age.Tengudō,also referred to...


    • 3 Structure and Relationship to Existing Variant Scrolls
      (pp. 55-90)

      TheTengu zōshiconsists of seven extant illustrated scrolls: (1) Kōfukuji (a nineteenth-century copy), (2) Tōdaiji (a nineteenth-century copy), (3) Enryakuji, (4) Onjōji, (5) Tōji/Daigoji/Mount Kōya (hereafter, shortened to Tōji), (6) Miidera A, and (7) Miidera B.¹

      In addition to the above, a sketched copy of Miidera A is included in theTan’yú shukuzu(Reduced drawings by Tan’yú), a collection of reducedsize copies of various works by the Edo artist Kanō Tan’yú (1602–1674). Although clearly a product of a later period and a different style of painting, a scroll titledMabutsu ichinyo-e(Illustration of the one-suchness ofmaand...

    • 4 Critique of Kamakura Buddhism
      (pp. 91-122)

      The first five scrolls of theTengu zōshi—Kōfukuji, Tōdaiji, Enryakuji, Onjōji, and Tōji—are concerned with the seven major temples of Nara and Kyoto. For instance, Kōfukuji opens with the statement that the temple was founded by Fujiwara no Fuhito (659–720) and has been affiliated with the Fujiwara regents for many generations. The text then describes the principal object of worship at Kōfukuji (an image of Śākyamuni Buddha) and the temple’s legends (including the history of the Yuima-e service), famed monks, and protective gods Kasuga, Hachiman, and Yoshino. Up to this point, the text is basically anengi....

    • 5 The Onjōji Scroll and the Question of Authorship
      (pp. 123-140)

      Scholars have yet to provide a definite answer to the question, “Who wrote theTengu zōshi?” Most agree with art historians Umezu Jirō and Ueno Kenji that the author must have come from or been affiliated in some way to Enryakuji.¹ In his recent study of Zen and reformist groups affiliated with Zen, Harada Masatoshi speculates that theTengu zōshimay have been created by a group of writers influenced by someone like Keisei, the early thirteenth-century monk who studied at Onjōji and wrote theHirasan kojin reitaku.² I, too, suggest here and elsewhere that the author is closely affiliated...

    • 6 The Definition of Ma
      (pp. 141-160)

      In this chapter we will exploremain theTengu zōshiby first analyzing the scrolls’ visual representations oftengu.Of particular interest are the metamorphosis scenes and the wide variety oftengutypes found throughout the Enryakuji scroll. First, we ask, how do these images project the author’s understanding of the realm oftengu?We will then look at the textual definition ofmaandtenguin Miidera B in an attempt to understand the discourse that explains howtenguas symbols ofmacan eventually attain enlightenment.

      In Enryakuji’s depiction of Sōji-in, we follow the gradual transformation of...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-168)

    Thus far, we have looked at various images oftenguand their symbolism. In Chapter 1, we examinedtenguas one of the many spirits that possessed a person and caused illness and how they were incorporated into the Buddhist cosmology as a manifestation ofmaduring the Heian. In Chapter 2, we considered the development oftengudō,the realm into which monks who could not rid themselves of their attachment to this world fell after their deaths. In Chapters 3– 6, we looked at howtenguimages were used to critique or defend the established Buddhist institutions that faced...

  9. Appendix: Comparative Table of the Onjōji Scroll and the 1319 Petition
    (pp. 169-172)
  10. Abbreviations
    (pp. 173-174)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 175-188)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  13. Index
    (pp. 199-203)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-205)