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Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient JapanThe Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800$
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Herman Ooms

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832353

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832353.001.0001

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(p.224) 9 Spirits
Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan

Herman Ooms

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter focuses on the power of spirits of the dead—often vindictive and vengeful (onryō)—which came to play an increasing role in the management of power and its contestation. It particularly narrates how Emperor Kanmu had to placate spirits and was thus forced to operate in a symbolic universe that was significantly different from the one created by Tenmu. The killings in the royal circles that accompanied the shift away from Tenmu's line haunted Kanmu personally for a long time, especially Crown Prince Sawara's suicide/murder. The chapter also looks into the case of Prince Nagaya, who was accused of black magic in 729—a case that may have provided the occasion for outlawing Daoist magic.

Keywords:   spirits, onryō, Emperor Kanmu, Prince Sawara, Prince Nagaya, black magic, Daoist magic

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