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Weaving and BindingImmigrant Gods and Female Immortals in Ancient Japan$
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Michael Como

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824829575

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824829575.001.0001

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Female Rulers and Female Immortals

Female Rulers and Female Immortals

(p.55) Chapter 3 Female Rulers and Female Immortals
Weaving and Binding

Michael Como

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores the influence of Chinese conceptions of medicine and immortality in the development of the ideal religious type, known as “hijiri.” It begins with a discussion of “medicine hunts” undertaken by the court in the Yoshino region of Yamato in accordance with the Chinese medical texts and the Chinese festival calendar. It argues that a series of ancestral legends and cults from the region closely correlate with legends of female shamans from Chinese sources and that the topographical features of the Yoshino mountains were considered especially conducive to the pursuit of superhuman powers. Because female immortals frequently appear as ancestors of lineages closely associated with the transmission of continental medical technologies, the development of both Buddhist and “native” cults in the region was in fact stimulated by the importation of continental conceptions of medicine and by the belief that a mix of drugs and ascetic practice could lead to the attainment of both immortality and control over the spirits of the dead.

Keywords:   Chinese medicine, immortality, hijiri, medicine hunts, Yoshino region, female immortals, Buddhist cults, native cults

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