Nicolette Lee: Legitimacy and the Power of Reading at Medieval Japanese Royal Convents

11:45-12:15 Nicolette Lee, USC School of Religion

“Legitimacy and the Power of Reading at Medieval Japanese Royal Convents”

The paradigmatic image of a Japanese Buddhist nun is the widow nun who lives a cloistered life. Similarly convents for elite women have been regarded as places for unmarried women to perform rituals in order to protect their family lineage. Rather, most of these women were sent as young children to assume religious vocations and led a social life. They enjoyed visits to the palace and pilgrimages with other courtiers, ladies-in-waiting, and nuns. Furthermore Muromachi-period (1333-1573) royal convents fulfilled the important role as literary salons—they were sites of literary production, consumption, and circulation. We know this fromevidence demonstrating exchanges of literary works like picture scrolls (emaki) between convents and their networks of aristocratic and shogunal patrons. In my project, I am investigating the literary exchange of texts among nuns from the tennō’s family and their patrons, primarily by using Prince Fushiminomiya Sadafusa’s (1372-1456) journal, the Kanmon nikki (1426-48). I will examine how the convent, aristocratic families, and shogunal patrons were mutually focused on owning, circulating, and sponsoring literary works as a means to accumulate cultural possessions that symbolically legitimated the family lineage and authority. In particular I will focus on royal nun Rien’s (1422-?) life, which offers a window into complex relations between her familial patrons, the royal and shogunal families. She was the youngest daughter of Sadafusa, younger sister of the sovereign Go-Hanazono (1419-71), and adopted daughter of shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori (1394-1441). By focusing on this network of cultural lending and borrowing, my project explores elite women’s lives at the intersection of the literary arts and religion.

中世日本の仏教の尼というのは、 パラダイムのイメージが「ゴケアマ」という尼だ。後家尼(ゴケアマ)はご主人がなくなった妻になり、残った責任・義務はご主人の往生ができるように祈ることだ。同じく、貴族的な女性が入る尼寺は、未婚の女性が、ただ、家族の守るために儀式を行う尼寺に入るとよく考えるそうだ。しかし、実に、この貴族的な女性たちは、幼い頃、尼寺に入る理由が、真面目に宗教的仕事をする予定だからだ。それに、家族・友達と活動したりして、そんなに遠隔の生活ではない。


私のプロジェクトに関して、伏見宮貞成(1372-1456)の日記、『看聞御記』、を調べて、 尼寺と尼寺の恩人たちとの絵巻の回流を調べる。特に、特別の作品を制作したり、消費したり、回流したりしたら、なぜ文化財を溜まるのは、自分の系統と権利を象徴的に正統ができるのかと考える。特に、理延(りえん)(1422-?)という王家の尼を中心する。貞成の末女、後花園天皇(1419-71)の妹、将軍足利義教(1394-1441)の養女で、理延は複雑で有力の関係があるので、絵巻のやり取りはただ楽しみのことではなく、政治的な意味も入っている。