Date and Time: Sep 16, 2022, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Jones Hall 202, Princeton University
This workshop places Japanese Buddhism in a transnational perspective. We argue that Japanese Buddhism was formed in dialogue with its neighbors and that these early exchanges had long-lasting implications. As such, our workshop stresses the need to consider Japan in relation to Korean and Chinese Buddhism. We also propose that scholars consider Japan not only as a passive recipient of continental traditions, as has typically been the case, but also as an active participant in shaping an interactive East Asian Buddhism. Our workshop focuses especially on a formative period in the history of Japanese Buddhism: the sixth century through the ninth centuries. The period under study is arguably the most cosmopolitan period in Japanese history prior to the modern era. Buddhism entered Japan in the mid-sixth century. A king from Paekche, a kingdom on the Korean peninsula, sent Buddhist texts and images to Japan as an official diplomatic gesture. From the beginning, therefore, Buddhism was tied to international relations. With the fall of Paekche in the seventh century, large numbers of people fled as refugees to Japan, bringing new Buddhist practices and ideas with them. Japan also began sending students to study abroad, directing many to China to learn from masters on the continent and import the latest texts and most reliable manuscripts. These official embassies ended in the ninth-century, marking a closing point to this especially cosmopolitan era. But the legacy of this exchange would continue to influence Japanese Buddhism for centuries to come, as we will show. Our workshop will document these developments and reflect upon models for how to understand these interactions.