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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.1 (2020): 108–125;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Manuscript Studies and Xuanzang Studies)

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Prayers for Mediation: Thirteenth-Century Textual Culture between Kōya and Kamakura

Princeton University

Abstract: This paper examines several esoteric doctrinal texts printed on Mt. Kōya in the late 1270s by the shogunate official Adachi Yasumori (1231–1285). Conventional histories of Japanese xylography follow a developmental sequence from devotional printing by wealthy aristocrats in the classical (Heian) period, through limited educational printing by temples in the medieval period, to the arrival of widespread commercial printing in the early modern period. This paper examines the complex interplay of soteriological, practical, political, and commercial elements in one medieval printing project to both critique an ‘ends’-based typology of textual reproduction and further develop recent arguments on the role of esoteric Buddhism in coordinating medieval power centers.

Keywords: Printing, Japan, shogunate, esoteric Buddhism, Shingon


About the Author: Brian Steininger (Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University) was educated at Macalester College, the University of Tokyo, and Yale University. His book Chinese Literary Forms in Heian Japan: Poetics and Practice (Harvard University Asia Center, 2017) examined composition and literary exchange within tenth-century officialdom. He is currently researching the impact of commerce with Yuan China on scholarship and media technologies in medieval Japan.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.