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Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan$
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Edward R. Drott

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824851507

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824851507.001.0001

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Aged Earth Gods and Majestic Imperial Ancestors

Aged Earth Gods and Majestic Imperial Ancestors

The Uses of Old Age in Early Japanese Myth

(p.5) Chapter One Aged Earth Gods and Majestic Imperial Ancestors
Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan

Edward R. Drott

University of Hawai'i Press

Chapter One examines representations of the aged body in some of Japan’s earliest texts, including the Kojiki, Nihon shoki and gazetteers (fudoki), in light of the religious, political and medical ideas they employed to produce an image of Japan as a realm organized around the axial figure of the heavenly sovereign (tennō). This involves an exploration of early Japanese myths (kikishinwa), in which aged male and female earth gods (kunitsukami) were used to represent subjugated peoples of outlying provinces in contrast to the awesome, youthful and vital bodies of the heavenly deities (amatsukami), the ancestors of the sovereign. Significantly, certain of these legends were redacted in the Yōrō Era, which saw the production of legal codes (ritsuryō) that contributed to the disempowerment of aged officials and symbolic activities that linked the virtue of the ruler with the ability to promote youthful longevity.

Keywords:   kikishinwa, Kojiki, Nihon shoki, fudoki, heavenly sovereign (tennō), ritsuryō, amatsukami, kunitsukami, Yōrō Era

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