Buddhismus und Nationalismus : Anmerkungen zur historiographischen Relevanz der Auseinandersetzung mit dem nationalistischen Diskurs des Bakumatsu-Buddhismus

Western historiography on Japanese religion seems to have adopted a rather myopic view of Tokugawa-Buddhism as existing in a state of deep decline. This stance has been widely accepted by Western scholars, and has found some quite influential spokesmen even among modern Japanese researchers. Whereas in Japan there have always been some historians critical of this established view, in the West the historical adequacy, analytical depth and scientific yield of such a characterization has been questioned only recently. This is all the more important, since the established view has led to an unfortunate disregard of important developments and figures in the history of Tokugawa-Buddhism proper, as well as to some rather questionable presentations of certain sectors of Meiji-Buddhist history. The article analyzes the historiographical relevance of a discussion of the Buddhist-nationalistic discourse in Bakumatsu Japan by presenting the politically highly influential priest Shimaji Mokurai – well-known for his acclaimed role as an enlightened and liberal spokesman for the ,,separation of politics and religion” and “religious freedom” in early Meiji – as a reactionary intellectual heir to the far less known priest Gesshō. Gesshō was one of the most radical supporters of the ,,revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians” and ,,overthrow the bakufu” movements. He was not only in close contact with Yoshida Shōin, but figured himself most prominently in shaping his sect’s general stance towards the Emperor and the Japanese nation at large. To illustrate the kind of xenophobic and nationalistic discourse Gesshō made use of, the article offers passages of his Buppō gokoku-ron in translation. It is argued that Buddhist figures like Shimaji Mokurai should not be thought of as enlightened and liberal reformers without considering the impact that men like Gesshō certainly had on their discourses.


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