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Real and Imagined: The Peak of Gold in Heian Japan

Real and Imagined: The Peak of Gold in Heian Japan

by Heather BlairHeather Blair


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During the Heian period (794–1185), the sacred mountain Kinpusen, literally the “Peak of Gold,” came to cultural prominence as a pilgrimage destination for the most powerful men in Japan—the Fujiwara regents and the retired emperors. Real and Imagined depicts their one-hundred-kilometer trek from the capital to the rocky summit as well as the imaginative landscape they navigated. Kinpusen was believed to be a realm of immortals, the domain of an unconventional bodhisattva, and the home of an indigenous pantheon of kami. These nominally private journeys to Kinpusen had political implications for both the pilgrims and the mountain. While members of the aristocracy and royalty used pilgrimage to legitimate themselves and compete with one another, their patronage fed rivalry among religious institutions. Thus, after flourishing under the Fujiwara regents, Kinpusen’s cult and community were rent by violent altercations with the great Nara temple Kōfukuji. The resulting institutional reconfigurations laid the groundwork for Shugendō, a new movement focused on religious mountain practice that emerged around 1300. Using archival sources, archaeological materials, noblemen’s journals, sutras, official histories, and vernacular narratives, this original study sheds new light on Kinpusen, positioning it within the broader religious and political history of the Heian period.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674504271
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/04/2015
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #376
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 364
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Heather Blair is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Table of Contents

Maps and Figures ix

Acknowledgments xi

Note to the Reader xv

Abbreviations xvii

Introduction 1

Part I The Mountain Imagined

1 Affective Landscape 19

2 The Local Pantheon 60

3 Ritual Regimes 98

Part II The Real Peak

4 The Trail 131

5 Offerings and Interments 160

6 Personnel and Politics 190

Part III Changing Landscapes

7 The Fall of the Peak of Gold 223

8 Engl and Interchange 246

Epilogue: The Rise of Shugendo 270

Bibliography 295

Glossary-Index 325

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