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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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“Tranquil Heart, Gazing Afar”

“Tranquil Heart, Gazing Afar”

Reimagining the Aged Body in Noh

(p.118) Chapter Seven “Tranquil Heart, Gazing Afar”
Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan

Edward R. Drott

University of Hawai'i Press

Chapter Seven examines how Zeami and his artistic heir Konparu Zenchiku sought to harness the otherworldly charisma of the aged body in Noh. This chapter traces Zeami’s uses of the aged form in his attempts to transform Noh from a low-status performance tradition into an aristocratized art. Zeami (and later Zenchiku) argued that Noh had its origins in okina sarugaku or the Shikisanban—a set of three ceremonial dances featuring actors performing as old men, including the smiling Okina. They described the Shikisanban as an ancient ritual with the power to ensure peace and prosperity in the realm. In developing the genre of Waki Noh—plays in which gods appear (usually as elders) to bless the realm—Zeami once again promoted the aged body as a locus of sacred power. And, in many of his dramatic works, Zeami used the aged body to generate pathos. Relying on Buddhist logic, Zeami suggested in his theoretical works and libretti that audiences moved by the pathos of the aged body would also reap worldly and spiritual benefits.

Keywords:   Noh, Zeami Motokiyo, Konparu Zenchiku, okina sarugaku, Shikisanban, Waki Noh

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