Accepted paper:

The Impact of Meiji Penal Code and Shinbutsu Bunri Policies on the Sokushinbutsu of Yudono


Andrea Castiglioni (Nagoya City University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the cult of the mummified corpses (sokushin-butsu) of Mount Yudono ascetics in the Meiji period.

Paper long abstract:

This paper reveals the effects of shinbutsu bunri policies and the 1880 penal code on the funerary procedures for mummifying corpses of Mount Yudono 湯殿 ascetics (issei gyōnin 一世行人) and on the devotional practices associated with the worship of these mummies. Focusing on the case of the eminent issei gyōnin Bukkai Shōnin 仏海上人, buried in a special sepulchral cell (ishi no karōto 石の匱) in 1903 and exhumed in 1978, I examine how Bukkai's devotees dealt with the fact that their pious handling and manipulation of the ascetic's corpse might now be classified as the illegal acts of destroying a cadaver (shitai sonkai 死体損壊) and desecrating a sepulcher (funbo hakkutsu 墳墓発掘). This study is also based on a hitherto unknown source—the Kaikōji dai jūshi sei Jisen Rinkai dai jimu nikki 海向寺第十四世持泉隣海代寺務日記 (1882-1883), compiled by the issei gyōnin Rinkai 隣海 (1830-1894)—which records public exhibitions (dekaichō 出開帳) of the sokushinbutsu cult, such as fund-raising (kanjin勧進) campaigns and rituals in which wood statues of eminent issei gyōjin (such as Tetsumonkai Shōnin 鐡門海上人) are given new sets of clothing (okoromogae 御衣替え). The paper sheds light on the influence of Meiji-period legislation on local funerary procedures for creating sokushinbutsu, on the survival of prior devotional practices within the new sokushinbutsu cult that emerged following epistemological rupture brought about by shinbutsu bunri policies, and on the pivotal role play by the sokushinbutsu in guaranteeing the economic and religious survival of ascetic temples (gyōnin-dera 行人寺) after the Meiji restoration.

panel S8a_13
Aspects of the Effect of Kami-Buddha Separation (Shinbutsu bunri) at Dewa Sanzan: Iconography, Liturgy and the Reconstruction of Popular Faith