Illustrating the mind: "Faulty memory" Setsuwa and the decorative sutras of late classical and early medieval Japan

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Abstract

This article explores the overlap between descriptions of sutra devotion that appear in setsuwa narratives and graphic traditions of sutra decoration popular in classical and medieval Japan, particularly from the eleventh century onward. Drawing on material from two Heian-period setsuwa collections, Hokke genki (1040-1044) and Konjaku monogatari shū (ca. 1120), the article focuses on the visual elements of written sutras, especially as elaborated in tales concerning "faulty memory." The article considers particular setsuwa as written stories which can be embodied in performance (preaching) and which attempt to activate the visual imaginations of their reader-listeners. Furthermore, the article argues that these setsuwa posit the memory, the page, and the human body as intertwined locales for the inscription of sacred Buddhist text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-230
Number of pages22
JournalJapanese Journal of Religious Studies
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies

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