The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan
- About the Book
The political influence of temples in premodern Japan, most clearly manifested in divine demonstrations—where rowdy monks and shrine servants brought holy symbols to the capital to exert pressure on courtiers—has traditionally been condemned and is poorly understood. In an impressive examination of this intriguing aspect of medieval Japan, the author employs a wide range of previously neglected sources to argue that religious protest was a symptom of political factionalism in the capital rather than its cause. It is his contention that religious violence can be traced primarily to attempts by secular leaders to rearrange religious and political hierarchies to their own advantage, thereby leaving disfavored religious institutions to fend for their accustomed rights and status. In this context, divine demonstrations became the preferred negotiating tool for monastic complexes. For almost three centuries, such strategies allowed a handful of elite temples to maintain enough of an equilibrium to sustain and defend the old style of rulership even against the efforts of the Ashikaga Shogunate in the mid-fourteenth century.
By acknowledging temples and monks as legitimate co-rulers, The Gates of Power provides a new synthesis of Japanese rulership from the late Heian (794–1185) to the early Muromachi (1336–1573) eras, offering a unique and comprehensive analysis that brings together the spheres of art, religion, ideas, and politics in medieval Japan.
- About the Author(s)
Mikael S. Adolphson, AuthorMikael S. Adolphson is associate professor of Japanese cultural studies at the University of Alberta.