Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shinto in History


Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami

Ed. John Breen & Mark Teeuwen

Univ. of Hawaii Press

ISBN 0-8248-2363-x

368pp


The word shinto is very problematical. I use it a lot in my blog, but am uncomfortable with it. Problem is there is no easy alternative word.

Shinto is often used to refer to an organized religion completely separate from Buddhism, and as such Shinto is a new religion created in the late 19th century which became the State Shinto of emperor worship. It's when shinto is referred to as "the indigenous religion of Japan" that the problems arise.

The first record of the word shinto in Japanese is referring to state rituals of the 8th Century which were of predominantly Taoist origin. Many researchers question if there is anything at all left if one strips away the influence of Buddhism, Taoism, Yin Yang theory and Confucionism from early Japanese religious practises..

All the chapters in this book look at different strands of Japanese religious history, and the book is organized chronologically. The contributors are a who's who of researchers and historians specializing in Japanese religion, and all the contributions are of a high quality.

A book for those who wish to get beyond the simplistic ideas that dominate so much and cause the rich diversity and complexity of Japanese history to be overlooked.

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