Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History

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A&C Black, Sep 6, 2012 - Religion - 256 pages
This is a cross-cultural study of the multifaceted relations between Buddhism, its materiality, and instances of religious violence and destruction in East Asia, which remains a vast and still largely unexplored field of inquiry. Material objects are extremely important not just for Buddhist practice, but also for the conceptualization of Buddhist doctrines; yet, Buddhism developed ambivalent attitudes towards such need for objects, and an awareness that even the most sacred objects could be destroyed.

After outlining Buddhist attitudes towards materiality and its vulnerability, the authors propose a different and more inclusive definition of iconoclasm-a notion that is normally not employed in discussions of East Asian religions. Case studies of religious destruction in East Asia are presented, together with a new theoretical framework drawn from semiotics and cultural studies, to address more general issues related to cultural value, sacredness, and destruction, in an attempt to understand instances in which the status and the meaning of the sacred in any given culture is questioned, contested, and ultimately denied, and how religious institutions react to those challenges.
 

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Contents

Instances of Religious Destruction in East Asia
45
Rethinking the Relations Between the Sacred and Destruction
169
Destruction and Cultural Systems
204
Notes
209

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About the author (2012)

Fabio Rambelli is Professor and International Shinto Foundation Chair of Shinto Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, and Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

Eric Reinders is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion, at Emory University, USA.

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