AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 521

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Session 521: Sacred Spaces II

Shinto in Singapore, 1942-45: Shrines, POWs, Asians and the Japanese Imperial Order
Rosemarie Bernard, Waseda University, USA

Shinto in Singapore, 1942-45: Shrines, POWs, Asians and the Japanese Imperial Order. Within a year of the fall of Singapore in February 1942, the Japanese military established a large Shinto shrine, Shônan Jinja, as well as monuments to fallen soldiers. These sites were central not only to the symbolic elaboration of the new Japanese authority, but equally to the erasure of British imperial power in the region, and to the inclusion/exclusion of various categories of Asians into its fold. Shortly after their humiliating capitulation, British, Australian and other royal armed forces soldiers were incarcerated as prisoners of war at Changi prison, and were used as coolie labor in various construction projects, including the infamous Burma-Thai Railway, as well as Shinto monuments. The Shônan Jinja, modeled primarily on Ise Jingû, was remarkable because many of the men who prepared its grounds and established its foundations, and who built its characteristic Ise-inspired bridge, were prisoner-of-war laborers. In addition to the shrine construction, the POWs were involved in building a monument to fallen Japanese soldiers, and in addition a large cross dedicated to fallen British Imperial soldiers, which the Japanese military authority allowed to have built in the name of tolerance. Ceremonies in both of these sites were religio-political and media occasions for the combined humiliation of the British forces, the subjugation of local Chinese, and the wooing of Malays in the new Shônan Singapore.

Ellen Van Goethem , Kyushu University, Japan

Throughout East Asia, great care was taken to select suitable locations for constructing tombs, residences, and cities. A site was considered auspicious if protected by four gods: the Black Turtle-Snake, the Vermilion Bird, the Azure Dragon, and the White Tiger. As in any other polity within the East Asian cultural sphere, geophysical divination thus became an integral part of the site selection process preceding the relocation of capital cities in ancient Japan. Although primary sources provide scant information on the actual landscape features representing these gods, secondary sources generally resort to the term “the four guardian gods are in balance” (_shijin sōō_) and its interpretation offered in the _Sakuteiki_, the text on garden aesthetics attributed to Tachibana Toshitsuna (1028–1094). In a section on the planting of trees, the _Sakuteiki_ explains that an auspicious site requires the presence of a mountain, a plain, a river, and a road to the north, south, east, and west, respectively. It is commonly assumed that this way of divining the gods in the landscape was a development unique to Japan. However, having shown in previous research that this “Sakuteiki-model” ultimately derives from Chinese traditions, it is now time to move beyond the Japanese archipelago and present a more in-depth study of the continental sources. Although the principles of what is required from an auspicious site are identical, there are some significant differences with regard to remedying topographical deficiencies in the various texts.

Religious, Social, and Economic Aspects of a Local Event:The Pilgrimage to the Temple Festival at Wanshougong, Xishan, Jiangxi Province.
Isabelle Ang, College de France, France

From fieldwork conducted in 1994 and 2009, I propose to examine the annual pilgrimage taking place in honor of the divinity Xu Xun at the Temple of Longevity in Jiangxi province. Thousands of pilgrims take part in the temple festival from the 7th to 8th lunar month, forming groups numbering as many as five hundred participants and representing hundreds of associations (hui) of villagers and city dwellers from Jiangxi province, other provinces and even other countries. Through observations and interviews of pilgrims, I will look at: the composition of the associations (village elders, bearers of the divinity statues [pusa], bearers of the dragon sculpture, musicians, brass and drum bands, taoist priests [daoshi]…); their names; the organization of the pilgrimage in some villages; the journey they make from their village or town to the temple, including visits to holy places linked to Xu Xun; the path the associations follow in the temple and the rituals they practice, and the role of the Wanshougong daoshi during the pilgrimage. Moreover, I will discuss some of the hundreds of steles found on the exterior temple walls―the oldest ones dating from the beginning of the XXe century―citing the names of the hui, their places of origin and the donors. All these informations prove the continuity of the cult for more than one hundred years. This study helps to define the territory of Xu Xun’s cult, shows the importance of the pilgrimage for the local associations and their religious, social and economic role in contemporary society.

Representing Liminality: The "Suhama" Depiction of the Coastal Landscape in Medieval Japansese Painting
Misato Ido, University of Tokyo, Japan

In medieval Japanese arts, there is a well-known genre of paintings and artifacts which depicts a coastal landscape of sandy beaches lined with pine trees in a formulaic style called Suhama. These Suhama paintings and artifacts were installed for certain ritual, artistic, and/or performative functions. In this essay, I would like to analyze the symbolic meaning of Suhama by putting it back in those contexts for which the genre was invented. Firstly, I revisit the visual and literary texts (e.g., picture scrolls) in order to demonstrate how Suhama was used spatially. Secondly, folding screens containing Suhama images are examined by situating them in the original context that can be reconstructed from the documented accounts of their historical use. All in all, I argue that the Suhama representation of the coastline, demarcating the land and sea firmly but in constantly shape-shifting ways, symbolizes the transitory and liminal space that separates (and reconciles) the ‘mundane` and the ‘sacred’ in Japan’s religious rituals and other traditional performing arts such as Noh theater.