Thursday, May 17, 2012

Japan Studies and Skewed Views in American Academia

I have written to some extent about the attempts to misappropriate religion by several suspected Freemasons that are officers in the CIA and MI6. The apparent aim of disseminating disinformation on history and religion, and their interrelatedness with respect to important developments and events is to influence peoples’ understanding of the relationship between religion and politics, with the ultimate object of inculcating dispositions that are more favorable to opening up politics to religion, as opposed to reiterating the need for separation of church and state in a constitutional democracy.  

Bear in mind that aside from Hashimoto and the Ishin no Kai, there are also Diet members of the LDP (opposition party) that are advocating revisions to the Constitution of Japan that would make the Emperor the head of state, and remove the provision renouncing the right to maintain a standing army and to use military force to settle international disputes. Aside from the various so-called gray media propaganda and other pseudo publications backed by the CIA and MI6 disinformation team, I have also encountered several individuals in academia in the USA that have raised suspicions over the course of the past 10 years of study relating to both Japan, religion and identity, and religion and modernity.

Recently I happened upon a book that connected a couple more of the dots in this puzzle. 

That book was published by Stanford University Press in 2007, and was written by David Bialock, and is called:

Eccentric Spaces, Hidden Histories
Narrative, Ritual, and Royal Authority from The Chronicles of Japan to The Tale of the Heike

He has apparently studied under Bernard Faure:
the author of the book below. I started reading that book about 7 years ago or so and only got through about fifty pages of it before moving on to more positive reading. It struck e as being highly biased, basically bigoted against Buddhism, and it included some literary criticism/deconstruction elements that also seemed to be applied in an incongruous manner. I decided that I would put that on the shelf and get back to it once I’d done enough ground work in Japanese history and Buddhism per se to more readily dispatch with the spurious claims he appeared to be making left and right.

The first problem with the work of both of these writers is the rather arbitrary application of the term medieval to broad and incongruous swaths of Japanese history that have little in common with that of the Western namesake. In fact, they almost seemed to be obsessively preoccupied with trying to fit Japanese round pegs into square Western holes with respect to various intellectual categories being bandied about. Insofar as they apply categories related to religion that do not fit the historical appearance and development of the respective traditions, they strike me as offensive, and somewhat bigoted, if bigotry can be recognized exist in a halfway-capacity categorical (not imperative) such as 'somewhat'. 

I have been withholding judgment on these individuals until I have time to read more, especially with respect to Mr. Fauer, in particular on Zen. However, the book Mr. Bialock has published is part of a series from Stanford University Press on “Asian Religions & Cultures”, which is co-edited by Mr. Fauer.

The book doesn’t focus directly on Buddhism, but on a historical story that was passed on orally for a long time, though there were records relating to the historical figures involved, and eventually recorded in several versions.

Though I am still not at the juncture of rendering a conclusive statement with respect to the academics addressed here (though I do have some reservations about referring to them as scholars), it is high time to present a bit of the findings I have discovered in relation to topics related to the so-called 'work' of these individuals. 

The text is called the Tale of the Heike. I read the English translation of an abridged version of the text by Japan’s best known historical novelist, Yoshikawa Eiji, about ten years ago. I since gave that book to a friend, so I don’t have my copy on hand, but still remember important parts of the story. Furthermore, since, Bialock mentions the translation by Helen McCullough, so I have ordered the two related works, and will present a more detailed response at some time in the future.

However, Bialock makes a couple of unsubstantiated assertions that would appear to counter the work of other more established scholars, as well as the manner in which I have come to understand certain aspects of Japanese history.

The American historian whose work he seems to ignore most incongruently is that of Robert Borgen, whose award winning book:
is listed in the biography and even quoted, in relation to a peripheral point, but outright neglected in relation to a crucial point. That is indicative of the overall trend in the book to neglect the big picture of the sweep of history, as well as the historical significance and background of various individuals, in favor of the pursuit of some esoteric hermeneutic.

I will address those people and incidents as I find the time. This initial entry will present an extract of the assertion Bialock makes that is directly counter to my interpretation of the relevant period, which relates to a broad sweep in Japanese history. What makes it more striking is that it is addressed to a substantial extent by Borgen, whose book is pretty much essential reading in this regard.

Today I am simply going to list some basic reference material from Wikipedia, and a few related quotes from Bialock’s book that I will insert comments on over the course of the next couple of days, limiting this initial entry to a brief treatment of the complex topic of the “Engi” period, and its context in the general sweep of Japanese history, the way I see I as opposed to the way Bialock portrays it.

In a previous post I have mentioned Emperor Uda, and other individuals discussed below, so you may want to refer to that as well. This is a somewhat cumbersome process. The following special edition Wiki page
has a fair amount of relevant material in concise form. I’ve pasted the most relevant portion on Uda Tenno and others below (italics), followed by information from another Wiki page on Uda Tenno's son, Daigo Tenno.

There was no immediate decision on an heir to Koko Tenno. The emperor wanted his 7th son Minamoto Sadami. This presented a problem in that as a Minamoto he had been removed from the imperial clan, legally speaking. Mototsune had rejected one candidate to succeed Yozei on exactly that ground. However, this time he agreed. Sadami was formally restored to the clan and made crown prince. His mother was not a Fujiwara but an imperial princess. The same day this was accomplished the emperor died and prince Sadami immediately succeeded. He is designated Uda Tenno. When the retired emperor Yozei was informed of this he said, "but isn't he a servant?" As Minamoto Sadami the new emperor had served as a page in the palace. This all occurred in 887.
The first edict issued by Uda Tenno contains the first use of the word Kampaku. The edict changed the name of Mototsune's office to "ako." Mototsune protested that the new word didn't mean anything. The two fought about this with many arguments for six months before Uda finally issued an edict putting everything back the way it was. One historian called this "the Ako War." It signalled that Uda was not going to be anyone's puppet emperor.
Mototsune then died in 891 before he could arrange for a proper successor through a new grandson or get his sons advanced to high positions in the government. He had 4 sons, Tokihira, Kanehira, Nakahira, and Tadahira, and 4 daughters. Two of them were married to Seiwa Tenno, one was married to Uda Tenno, and the last would eventually become married to Daigo Tenno. Tokihira was 21 years old and not yet of Sangi rank. As manager of the fortunes of the northern branch of the Fujiwara clan Mototsune seems to have made a real mess of the position achieved by Yoshifusa.
When Mototsune died emperor Uda wasted no time in reestablishing the principle that the emperor is the ruler. The office of Kampaku lapsed and was not revived for forty years.

Yasunori, Michizane, and Tokihira
The emperor took several measures to try to assure that control would remain in hands of the imperial clan. He made sure to promote men from several lineages of the Fujiwara clan so that they could be rivals of each other, and he also moved many of his relatives into the Minamoto clan and appointed them to high office. At the same time that the 21 year old Tokihira was raised to the sangi level, so was Uda’s brother Minamoto no Osamoto. And, over the next few years Osamoto was followed by Sadatsune, Tato, Mare, and Noboru. In 893 the emperor established as crown prince Atsuhito, 9 years old, whose mother, although a Fujiwara, was only a cousin of Tokihira. Her father, Takafuji was first raised to the sangi at this time, possibly to serve as a rival to Tokihira. Finally, he raised two relatively obscure “good governors” to high office. They were Fujiwara Yasunori, one year after the death of Mototsune, and Sugawara no Michizane, the year after. Yoshifusa and Mototsune had run things for 30 years, between them, and Uda was now trying to do something quite different.
At the top level his government had 7 Fujiwara and 6 Minamoto and one lonely representative of the remaining ancient aristocracy in the person of Sugawara no Michizane. The sadaijin was Minanoto Toru, aged 72, followed by Fujiwara Yoshiyo, also 72, Minamoto Yoshiari, only 50, Minamoto Hikaru, 49, Fujiwara Morokatsu , 66, and Fujiwara Tokihira, now 23. Yoshiyo was now the chief of the Fujiwara clan, however Tokihira’s prospects were still pretty good since he was going to outlive all of these men and inevitably rise to the top barring some disaster. And, it was not enough for Uda to assert himself. He had to show that he could pull it off, politically, over the long run. His elevation of Yasunori and Michizane was going to be very important to him. It was necessary that it work out. There were plenty of problems to deal with. It was pretty clear that the pattern of rural government established in the Nara period had broken down.
Fujiwara Yasunori was from the “southern” branch of the Fujiwara that had been knocked out of the top aristocracy. His grandfather had held the rank of chunagon, but his father never got higher than vice-commander of one of the guards units, barely clinging to aristocratic status. In 855 Yasunori got a low ranking post in the central bureaucracy, and in 871 he went to Bitchu province as a zuryo, and subsequently transferred to Bingo. In 878 when the rebellion in Dewa broke out, Mototsune assigned him as the governor supporting the forces sent to deal with it. He was, as previously noted, very successful and suppressed the rebellion despite an extreme shortage of resources and with a minimum of violence. After that he went back to work as a zuryo, but he continued to attract attention as a “good official” in Sanuki province and as the deputy commander at Dazaifu. Immediately after Mototsune’s death emperor Uda brought him back to the capital and in the next year raised him to the sangi level. At the time he was 68 years old (and therefore no real threat to Tokihira).
Yasunori was certainly well qualified to advise the government about conditions in the countryside and what it took to be able to keep the peace, as he had successfully done for many years.
Sugawara no Michizane’s route to high office was somewhat different. Following his grandfather and father, he was a scholar attached to the university and a well-known poet (since the age of 11). Neither his grandfather nor his father had had any political or governmental role. However, his father Koreyoshi had been promoted to sangi rank in 872 (when Michizane was 28), opening the way for Michizane to seek a career, if he wished to. In 874 Michizane was given 5th rank, passed through several minor bureaucratic offices, and in 877 was given a concurrent appointment as professor at the university. In 886 he was appointed governor of Sanuki province and decided to actually go to his province, resigning 3 other posts in the central government to do so.
He was in Sanuki for 4 years. While there he wrote a book of 140 poems, but also worked hard to be a “good official” in the mode of Yasunori, with whom he was familiar, work that shows up in many of the poems. When he returned to the capital he was among those who criticized Mototsune’s determination to remain Kampaku over an adult emperor. This naturally attracted Uda’s attention.
Emperor Uda had a strategy for dealing with the problems facing the government, but it was not one that involved creating new arrangements. Rather it was an attempt to go back to the approaches of the Nara period system. The main idea seems to be that if the system were run humanely, people would accept it. This is very Confucian, holding that morality is far more important than structure in solving governmental problems. His reign title combined characters for benevolence and tranquility.

I will revisit these entries periodically and fill them out, hoping eventually to have enough material in coherent form to publish it in some form other than a blog. So you might want to check periodically if these topics are of interest.

On p.4 of the Introduction, Bialock writes:
“The idealization of the sage ruler is usually traced back to the period of the Tale of Genji when the reign of the Engi era sovereign Diago (r.897-930) began to be idealized as a golden age, with the emperor governing free from the meddling of the Fujiwara regents.”

On p. 242, we encounter the passage:
“After detailing Daigo’s parentage and the stages of his accession to the rank of the “son of heaven”, it continues with the following description of his reign:”

On p. 243 we encounter the passage:
“Although the reigns of Uda and Daigo were already being idealized by the time of the Tale of Genji as an age when the sovereign governed without interference from the Fujiwara regents, it was in the Heike narrative tradition that this was distilled into a mythlike representation of imperial rule.”

Atsuhito-shinnō was the eldest son of his predecessor, Emperor Uda. His mother was Fujiwara no Taneko, daughter of the minister of the center, Fujiwara no Takafuji.[6] He succeeded the throne after his father, the Emperor Uda, abdicated in 897.

Daigo had 21 empresses, imperial consorts, and concubines; he had 36 imperial sons and daughters.

Consorts and children

Empress: Fujiwara no Onshi (藤原穏子) (885–954), daughter of Kampaku Fujiwara no Mototsune (藤原基経)
Nyōgo: Fujiwara no Nōshi (藤原能子) (?–964), daughter of Udaijin Fujiwara no Sadakata
(藤原定方); later, married to Fujiwara no Saneyori (藤原実頼)
Nyōgo: Court Lady Fujiwara no Wakako (藤原和香子) (?–935), daughter of Dainagon Fujiwara no Sadakuni (藤原定国)
Koui:  Fujiwara no Yoshihime (藤原淑姫) (?–949), daughter of Sangi Fujiwara no Sugane (藤原菅根)
Koui:  Fujiwara no Senshi (藤原鮮子) (?–915), daughter of Iyonosuke (伊予介) Fujiwara no Tsuranaga(藤原連永)
Koui: Fujiwara no Kuwako (藤原桑子) (?–?), daughter of Chūnagon Fujiwara no Kanesuke (藤原兼輔)
Koui:  A daughter of Fujiwara no Korehira (藤原伊衡の娘)

Of the fourteen of the “21 empresses and consorts” listed on the Wikipedia page, half of are from the Fujiwara clan. To put this into perspective, Emperor Daigo’s mother, his Empress, and many of the other women serving him as consorts were members of the Fujiwara clan.

Events of Daigo's life

900 (Shōtai 3, 10th month): The former Emperor Uda traveled to Mount Kōya (高野山 , Kōya-san?) in what is now Wakayama prefecture to the south of Osaka. He visited the temples on the slopes of the mountain.
901 (Engi 1, 1st month): The Sugawara Michizane "incident" developed, but more details cannot be known because Daigo ordered that diaries and records from this period be burned.


Kugyō (公卿?) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras.[19]
In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Daigo's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:
§  Sesshō, Fujiwara no Tokihira (藤原時平), 909.
§  Sadaijin, Fujiwara no Tokihira 871–909.
§  Sadaijin, Fujiwara no Tadahira (藤原忠平), 880–949.
§  Udaijin, Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真), 845–901.
§  Udaijin, Minamoto no Hikaru (源光), 845–913.
§  Udaijin, Fujiwara no Tadahira.
§  Udaijin, Fujiwara no Sadakata (藤原定方), 873–932.
§  Naidaijin, Fujiwara no Takafuji (藤原高藤), 838–900.

As shown above, not only was Emperor Daigo surrounded by women from the Fujiwara clan, among the eight highest ranking officials in the court that served under him, six were from the Fujiwara clan, and one of the two individuals that wasn’t a Fujiwara—Sugawara no Michizane—was the target of a plot by the Fujiwara.

No comments:

Post a Comment