The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan
The political influence of temples in pre-modern Japan, most clearly manifested in divine demonstrations, has traditionally been condemned and is ... Show synopsis The political influence of temples in pre-modern Japan, most clearly manifested in divine demonstrations, has traditionally been condemned and is poorly understood. In an impressive examination of this intriguing aspect of medieval Japan, Mikael Adolphson employs a wide range of previously neglected sources (court diaries, abbot appointment records, war chronicles, narrative picture scrolls) 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 re-arrange 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.