SOAS University of London

Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

Holy Horses! The Amano Shrine and the Sacred and Political Control of the Kōyasan Mountain Domain

Dr Philip Garrett (Newcastle University)

Date: 6 December 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 6 December 2018Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B202

Type of Event: Lecture


High in the mountain landscape of Japan’s Kii peninsula, the Shingon Buddhist temple complex Kōyasan dominated the economic, political, and sacred life of the surrounding area in the classical and medieval periods. Its foundation myth was that a suitable location for the temple had been revealed to the founder Kūkai by the local gods of Amano, a connection which developed into a combinatory conception of sacred space in the mountains, stemming from Shingon cosmology and the ancestral domain of the Amano gods. By the early medieval period, Kōyasan was a major landholder as well as religious site, meaning that legal and economic control over productive land was interwoven with sacred space and legitimacy. This turned the Amano Shrine and its gods into a focal point in the conflict between competing monkish factions within the Kōyasan temple complex and their allies and enemies among the warrior families of the region. This talk will consider the disputes over control of the shrine’s sacred horses as a window into early medieval law and litigation, sacred space and legitimacy, and the relationship between the monk and warrior elites of the period.

Speaker Biography

Philip Garrett is the Lecturer in Japanese History at Newcastle University, where he teaches Japanese history from the Palaeolithic to the present. He read for the BA and M.St in Japanese at Oxford, where he investigated the stirrings of local society in the rebellions of the tenth century, before moving to Cambridge to research early medieval Japanese history for the PhD. His primary interest is in the intersections of kinship, social status, law, and the sacred in medieval Japanese society, with a secondary interest in earthquake and tsunami history.

Organiser: Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions & Centre of Buddhist Studies

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