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Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan

Mick Deneckere (UGent)
(2015)
Author
Promoter
Richard Bowring
Organization
Abstract
The True Pure Land priest Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) was at the forefront of the Buddhist struggle for survival when the Meiji government employed an invented Shinto as a means of unifying the Japanese people to help transform Japan into a modern state. Mokurai is credited for having introduced the ‘modern’ notions of ‘religious freedom’ and ‘separation of church and state’ to Japan after undertaking a journey to Europe in the early 1870s. Despite making such an important contribution to Japan’s intellectual history, Mokurai remains an understudied historical figure. By focusing on Mokurai’s personal background up until the Meiji Restoration, this study traces the origins of certain aspects of his thought back to late Tokugawa Chōshū, where he spent the first thirty years of his life. A discussion of the role played by Shin Buddhism in bakumatsu Chōshū and in the Meiji Restoration will highlight the agency of Buddhism and call into question the traditional view that Buddhism was a weakened institution by the end of the Tokugawa period. An analysis of Mokurai’s travel diaries will reveal encounters and experiences in Europe that further formed his understanding of ‘religion’ and its relationship to the state. The dissertation will next discuss how, back in Japan, Mokurai’s Chōshū connections helped facilitate the adoption of his views into governmental religious policies. It will also demonstrate how, through essays on ‘religion’ and other themes related to Japan’s civilising effort, published in Japan’s first dedicated Buddhist journal Hōshi sōdan and elsewhere, Mokurai’s ideas reached the wider public. Through the lens of Mokurai’s legacy, this dissertation revisits the broader questions of the (dis)continuity from bakumatsu into Meiji and of the role of (Shin) Buddhism in Japan’s modernising effort based on the Meiji government’s ‘civilisation and enlightenment’ and ‘rich country, strong army’ ideals of the 1870s.

Citation

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Chicago
Deneckere, Mick. 2015. “Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the Restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan”. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge. Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
APA
Deneckere, M. (2015). Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan. University of Cambridge. Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge, UK.
Vancouver
1.
Deneckere M. Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan. [Cambridge, UK]: University of Cambridge. Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; 2015.
MLA
Deneckere, Mick. “Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the Restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan.” 2015 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{7034639,
  abstract     = {The True Pure Land priest Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) was at the forefront of the Buddhist struggle for survival when the Meiji government employed an invented Shinto as a means of unifying the Japanese people to help transform Japan into a modern state. Mokurai is credited for having introduced the ‘modern’ notions of ‘religious freedom’ and ‘separation of church and state’ to Japan after undertaking a journey to Europe in the early 1870s. Despite making such an important contribution to Japan’s intellectual history, Mokurai remains an understudied historical figure.
By focusing on Mokurai’s personal background up until the Meiji Restoration, this study traces the origins of certain aspects of his thought back to late Tokugawa Chōshū, where he spent the first thirty years of his life. A discussion of the role played by Shin Buddhism in bakumatsu Chōshū and in the Meiji Restoration will highlight the agency of Buddhism and call into question the traditional view that Buddhism was a weakened institution by the end of the Tokugawa period. An analysis of Mokurai’s travel diaries will reveal encounters and experiences in Europe that further formed his understanding of ‘religion’ and its relationship to the state. The dissertation will next discuss how, back in Japan, Mokurai’s Chōshū connections helped facilitate the adoption of his views into governmental religious policies. It will also demonstrate how, through essays on ‘religion’ and other themes related to Japan’s civilising effort, published in Japan’s first dedicated Buddhist journal Hōshi sōdan and elsewhere, Mokurai’s ideas reached the wider public. Through the lens of Mokurai’s legacy, this dissertation revisits the broader questions of the (dis)continuity from bakumatsu into Meiji and of the role of (Shin) Buddhism in Japan’s modernising effort based on the Meiji government’s ‘civilisation and enlightenment’ and ‘rich country, strong army’ ideals of the 1870s.},
  author       = {Deneckere, Mick},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {University of Cambridge. Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies},
  title        = {Shimaji Mokurai (1838–1911) and the restoration of Shin Buddhism in Bakumatsu and Early Meiji Japan},
  year         = {2015},
}