Confucian Values and Popular Zen: Sekimon Shingaku in Eighteenth Century Japan

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Hardback: $35.00
ISBN-13: 9780824814144
Published: July 1993

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270 pages
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  • About the Book
  • Although East Asian religion is commonly characterized as “syncretic,” the historical interaction of Buddhist, Confucian, and other traditions is often neglected by scholars of mainstream religious thought. In this thought-provoking study, Janine Sawada moves beyond conventional approaches to the history of Japanese religion by analyzing the ways in which Neo-Confucianism and Zen formed a popular synthesis in early modern Japan. She shows how Shingaku, a teaching founded by merchant Ishida Baigan, blossomed after his death into a widespread religious movement that selectively combined ideas and practices from these traditions. Drawing on new research into original Shingaku sources, Sawada challenges the view that the teaching was a facile “merchant ethic” by illuminating the importance of Shingaku mystical experience and its intimate relation to moral cultivation in the program developed by Baigan's successor, Teshima Toan.

    This book also suggests the need for an approach to the history of Japanese education that accounts for the informal transmission of ideas as well as institutional schooling. Shingaku contributed to the development of Japanese education by effectively disseminating moral and religious knowledge on a large scale to the less-educated sectors of Tokugawa society. Sawada interprets the popularity of the movement as part of a general trend in early modern Japan in which ordinary people sought forms of learning that could be pursued in the context of daily life.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Janine Anderson Sawada, Author

      Janine Anderson Sawada is professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Brown University.
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