Understanding Japan: A Cultural History – Lectures 5 & 6

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Saturday, Nov 26, 2016, 4:00 pm

Edgewood Auditorium
575 Osgood Street
North Andover, MA

Lecture 5 – Early Japanese Buddhism

Japanese Buddhism is almost as old as Japan’s civilization, or at least as old as written civilization, primarily because some of the same people who brought writing to Japan – early scribes – were also Buddhist monks, Chinese sources suggest that Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 460’s, though the more widely accepted date is 552 – when the king of Baekje sent a mission to Japan that included monks, nuns, and Buddhist texts. In any case, whether it was the 460s or 550s or somewhere in between, Japanese Buddhism is nearly as old as the earliest written records in Japan. In this lecture, we’ll explore Buddhism and learn why it was appealing in ancient Japan.

Lecture 6 – Heian Court Culture

One of the framing ideas of this course is the notion of cycles in Japanese history; periods of great cosmopolitanism and globalization and periods of relative isolation and seclusion. In this lecture, we’ll discuss Japan’s first period of relative isolation, beginning in the 800s and lasting into the 1300s. By standard chronology, this 500-year stretch spans two historical epochs: The Heian period (794-1185) and the Kamakura period (1185-1333). This lecture highlights two key issues in the Heian period: the relative decline of the powerful centralized state that was constructed in the 700s and the rise of a new political and cultural system to replace it, the Heian court.


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