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Transcending Locality, Creating Identity: Shinra Myojin, a Korean Deity in Japan

Kim, Su Jung

This dissertation is about Shinra Myojin, a god of Silla that was worshipped in medieval Japanese Buddhism. It analyzes the various networks with which the deity was involved, namely, networks of Silla immigrants, Silla shrines and temples, and a variety of gods. Through examining the worship of Shinra Myojin from several different angles, each chapter has different, and yet related arguments.
In the first chapter, I argue that the emergence of Shinra Myojin's cult can be fully understood when viewed within the context of the "East Asian Mediterranean" trade network, in which Silla merchants, immigrants, and Buddhist monks played a prominent role. In the second chapter, while focusing on a pivotal moment of the Shinra Myojin cult--a process of sedentarisation in which he changed from a sea deity into a mountain deity, I argue that Shinra Myojin was the central deity of Onjoji, as well as the entire Jimon tradition. The third chapter explains how the Japanese imaginaire of Silla was evolved, encoded and had effects in medieval Japan, and how Shinra Myojin functioned as a god of pestilence. Another pivotal point of Shinra Myojin's career was his mythological transformation from 'a god of Silla' to 'a god who conquered Silla.' In the last chapter, I analyze the visual representation of Shinra Myojin within this larger religious context, and argue that Shinra Myojin is best understood when we consider the deity in this network of other Silla-related deities, represented as an old man.
The examination of Shinra Myojin's cult from an interdisciplinary angle serves as a gateway for exploring other understudied associations between medieval Japanese religiosity and those religious ideas and practices that were either continental in origin or were at least perceived to be so by medieval Japanese. My findings from interdisciplinary research contribute to elucidating those connections existing across the boundaries of religion, history, mythology, literature, and visual culture, all of which describes broader dynamics of East Asian religion as a whole.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Faure, Bernard
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014
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