Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800
By: Herman Ooms (author)Hardback
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"Imperial Politics and Symbolics" is an ambitious and ground-breaking study that offers a new understanding of a formative stage in the development of the Japanese state. The late seventh and eighth centuries were a time of momentous change in Japan, much of it brought about by the short-lived Tenmu dynasty. Two new capital cities, a bureaucratic state led by an imperial ruler, and Chinese-style law codes were just a few of the innovations instituted by the new regime. Herman Ooms presents both a wide-ranging and fine-grained examination of the power struggles, symbolic manipulations, new mythological constructs, and historical revisions that both defined and propelled these changes.In addition to a vast amount of research in Japanese sources, the author draws on a wealth of Sinological scholarship in English, German, and French to illuminate the politics and symbolics of the time. An important feature of the book is the way it opens up early Japanese history to considerations of continental influences.
Rulers and ritual specialists drew on several religious and ritual idioms, including Daoism, Buddhism, yin-yang hermeneutics, and kami worship, to articulate and justify their innovations. In looking at the religious symbols that were deployed in support of the state, Ooms gives special attention to the Daoist dimensions of the new political symbolics as well as to the crucial contributions made by successive generations of 'immigrants' from the Korean peninsula.From the beginning, a 'liturgical state' sought to co-opt factions and clans (uji) as participants in the new polity with the emperor acting as both a symbolic mediator and a silent partner. In contrast to the traditional interpretation of the Kojiki mythology as providing a vertical legitimation of a Sun lineage of rulers, an argument is presented for the importance of a lateral dimension of interdependency as a key structural element in the mythological narrative.
Herman Ooms is professor of Japanese history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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- ID: 9780824832353
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