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Dolce, Lucia (2016) 'The Embryonic Generation of the Perfect Body: Ritual Embryology from Japanese Tantric Sources.' In: Andreeva, Anna and Steavu, Dominic, (eds.), Transforming the Void: Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Imagery in East Asian Religions. Leiden; New York: Brill, pp. 253-310. (Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series)

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Recent investigations in Japanese temple archives have brought to light medieval documents of diverse provenance, which present the process of generation of the human book-body as a template for the highest Buddhist attainment. These sources expound a type of initiatory embryology for accomplished Tantric practitioners, clearly developed in a ritual context and drawing on canonical Tantric imagery, but different from the practices of Chinese and early Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. This chapter explores the most distinct trope of mediaeval embryology, the charts of the so-called “five stage gestation” (tainai goi). The mapping of the embryogenetic process combines different strands of knowledge, from Indian medicine to Chinese notions of the organic body, articulated in a diagrammatic rather than discursive mode. I reconstruct the conceptual and ritual background of these visual narratives and the links that they entertain with canonical, albeit little studied, material, such as the exegetical tradition of the Yuqi jing and distinct Tantric practices of visualisation. While normative views of Japanese Buddhism hold embryology-informed practices to be the heterodox interpretations of a liminal group called Tachikawa-ryū, I argue that in medieval Japan the embryogenetic discourse represented a new, major, soteric model shared across lineages

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions > Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions
ISBN: 9789004300675
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2016 12:46

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