In his book chapter “Chinese Buddhist Death Ritual and the Transformation of Japanese Kinship” (found here under ‘Contents’) Hank Glassman makes a rather remarkable claim: he asserts, pace previous claims, that in ancient and medieval Japan “it was Buddhist death ritual that shaped families and not the reverse” (379).
In your response paper I’d like you to unpack Glassman’s argument, using the evidence he provides (no need to do additional research), together with your own critical assessment of the broader theoretical issue regarding the “sinification” or local Japanese alteration of Chinese cultural and religious institutions and norms during the medieval period
I want you to lay out what I see as two separate discussions that unfold in Glassman’s article – the first centered on reconstructing the history of the family in medieval Japan, which includes an important (and rare) discussion of gender in medieval Japan, the other centered on the Japanese appropriation of imported Chinese cultural and religious norms (Confucian, Buddhist) to address and work out their own local issues, concerns, and social dilemmas surrounding death itself, and specifically the role of women in the specific death rites or practices that themselves constituted one key element in medieval Japanese family structure.
Again, these two (or three, depending on whether you consider the arguments made about the role of women in medieval Japan as constituting its own subject, or simply one of many issues subsumed within Glassman’s synoptic history of the Japanese family) discussions are set within the framework of his two introductory paragraphs that take the Japanese family out of the driver’s seat, if you will, and place it in the backseat of a wide-scale transformation that unfolded across medieval Japan, whereby the local Japanese appropriated a “complex” of institutional practices (legalistic, family, and ritual practices) from China to address issues of death and its place within the life (and structure) of the family.
Specifically, I want you to take the very last paragraph of Glassman’s article (his conclusion) and unpack it or rewrite it, working out some (but certainly not all) of the issues in it using the detailed historical evidence that he provides in the article as a whole. In particular, I want you to work out just what Glassman is getting at in the quote provided above when he attributes a kind of historical and practical agency to the Buddhist death rituals that he discusses.
This assignment will require you combined with the kind of theoretical and methodological reflections (on religious traditions generally, on the historical development of those traditions) In other words, I want you to think through (and again, rewrite in your own words in as much detail as you can pack) the multiple conclusions reached, and issues raised, in Glassman’s final paragraph.
in your paper, “take on” Glassman’s final paragraph and see what kind of life you can read into it. This can be done simply by (1) laying out the separate issues/arguments/conclusions he makes there and then (2) go through each of those issues or claims, one-by-one, using the rich body of evidence he presents in the chapter as a whole.
critical reflection and summary of the basic arguments made in the last paragraph of this one brief scholarly piece.
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