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10.01.2016 г.

The history of the Tenjin cult as described in The Legends about the Origin of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin Engi)

Vladlena A. Fedianina, PhD, assistant professor, The Moscow City University, The Institute of Foreign Languages, The Department of Japanese Language Studies

In the paper we finalize an analysis of The Legends about the Origin of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (in Japanese Kitano Tenjin Engi, written in 1194)[1]. This primary source presents the first full history of one of the Shinto's cults - the Tenjin cult (天神信仰). Being aware of arguments for using the term "Shinto", we would like to emphasize that in the current context we use the word "Shinto" to designate the indigenous Japanese beliefs. The word "cult" indicates practices connected with faith in Tenjin, it means a Heavenly deity, who is the deification of a scholar, poet and statesman named Sugawara Michizane (845-903). This devotion was and is embodied in ceremonies, offerings and prayers hold mainly in shrines and temples dedicated to Tenjin.

The process of deification of Michizane and venerating of Tenjin are well documented in various Michizane's biographies, historical chronicles and legislative acts; in literature, created inside of the cult's tradition (records of oracles, revelations and visions of its believers; written vows; stories of the origin of shrines; liturgical texts, etc.); in literary and fictional works; in historiography on the Tenjin cult. We analysed them and we were able to distinguish main periods in the development of the Tenjin cult:

1. The formation of the cult in the 10th - beginning of 11th centuries.

2. The development of the cult within the concept of honji suijaku ("the original forms of deities and their local traces") over the period from the 11th and up to the first half of the 19th centuries. This longest period has, in turn, divided into several sub-periods: the juxtaposition of Tenjin and Kannon, 11th-12th centuries, i.e. the second half of the Heian period; Tenjin as the embodiment of Kannon during the dominance of Buddhist component, 13th -16th centuries; Tenjin as the embodiment of Kannon during the predominance of Confucian component, from the 17th century).

3. The functioning of the cult as a Shinto cult from the second half of the 19th century till now.

In this paper we consider only how the period of the formation of the cult in the 10th - beginning of 11th centuries and the sub-period of the juxtaposition of Tenjin and Kannon, 11th-12th centuries are described in The Kitano Tenjin Engi.

Deified posthumously under the name of Temman Daijizai Tenjin, Sugawara Michizane is interesting not only for his personal achievements, but also in the way that the second half of the 9th century was reflected in his life. It was a time of transition in the institutional and cultural history of Japan which was marked with many innovations. But the principles of the "law-based state" (ritsuryou kokka), established in the early 8th century, were beginning combined to erode. During the late 9th century and the early 10th century Japanese civilization was developing its own original forms in all spheres of life. A dual system of government had developed: the country was ruled by an Emperor together with a member of the Fujiwara clan, who were married. However, the separation of powers of the sovereign and his co-ruler had not happened yet, this caused the increased hostility within the ongoing political struggle into the centre of which Sugawara Michizane was thrust. He owed his exceptional rise to sovereign grace, and his rapid downfall to the Fujiwara's disgruntlement. The nomination of Michizane to the most important government positions and the opportunity for his grandson to become Crown Prince threatened the power of the Fujiwara clan. So such they brought about the demotion of their opponent and his eventual exile to a distant province (to Kyushu).

Michizane's life, his origins, multiple inarguable talents, successful career, unmerited disgrace and death in exile became the basis for his worship as an angry evil spirit (onryou), able to avenge wrongdoing. Sacralisation of Michizane's personality and the principal stages of formation of the Tenjin cult were detailed in written sources of the cult as well as in Michizane's biographies, historical chronicles and some literary works of the 10th-12th centuries. Written sources of the cult contain records of revelations and visions of its believers; stories of the origin of the Tenjin sanctuaries in Kitano and Dazaifu (engi); prayers. Texts of the 10th century not only report but also define the transformation of views on Michizane's spirit. Literary and historical works of 11th -12th centuries offer different versions of the development of this already established cult shaped by the political and religious views of their authors.

We can name the following periods in formation of the cult: 1) the worship of the Michizane's spirit within ancient indigenous beliefs in the first half of the 10th century; 2) the formation of the Tenjin cult in the framework of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism after the 940s; 3) the official recognition of the cult by the Imperial Court in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. We will briefly outline them.[2]

The worship of Michizane's spirit began independently in two centres - Kyoto and Dazaifu - and was based on pre-existing beliefs. In Dazaifu, where Michizane was exiled, died and was buried, worship began immediately after his death in line with the cult of ancestors. In Kyoto, the capital, where he spent most of his life and became famous, worship began about two decades after his death as a part of the cult of vengeful spirits goryou[3], alongside the spirits of others who had suffered in political struggle, were exiled and died in disgrace. Contemporaries tried to placate and appease these spirits, feared their retaliation, which, according to then-existing views, showed itself in epidemics, diseases and natural disasters.

Misfortune which the opponents of Michizane experienced for several decades and a series of natural disasters in the capital were interpreted by contemporaries as acts of the angry evil spirit of this disgraced dignitary. To appease it several measures were taken, of religious (e.g., creation of a sanctuary) as well as secular (e.g., posthumous increase in the Court rank, etc.) nature.

At its early stage the cult in Kyoto, especially after a fire, caused by lightning, in the Emperor's Palace, the angry evil spirit of Michizane was identified with Ikazuchi Tenjin, the Heavenly deity of fire and thunder and fertility, which probably contributed to the spread of the cult further in the country.

Ikazuchi Tenjin had long been revered in Kitano, a place on the outskirts of the capital. About 947 in Kitano a sanctuary was built there to honour the spirit of Michizane named Tenjin, Heavenly deity. Since the mid-940s his worship was formalized in the religious context of Buddhism. This was done through easing of its menacing character and turning an angry evil spirit into the merciful Dharma protector deity, and later in the incarnation of the bodhisattva Kannon.

The family of Sugawara and some representatives of the Fujiwara clan also contributed to the worship of Michizane's spirit as a merciful deity-guardian and patron of literature, and then as the incarnation of the bodhisattva Kannon. This became especially noticeable when in 947 and in 976 representatives of the Sugawara family headed both religious centres. The development and prosperity of the sanctuary in Kitano was largely due to the Minister of the Right Fujiwara Morosuke - ironically, the nephew of Fujiwara Tokihira who was the main political opponent of Michizane. Folk elements of the cult were gradually diminished, and the "oppositional" angry spirit turned into a peaceful patron of literature as well as a protector of the Kujous, the branch of the Fujiwara family founded by Morosuke. The Tenjin cult, with the assistance of Fujiwara Morosuke and his descendants, came to the attention of the Imperial Court, received royal patronage and was included in the state system of ritual practices and teachings. As was stated by Japanese researcher Kasai Masaaki, "The emergence of new deities ... accompanied by the emergence of a new political system of Regents and Chancellors. Deities of the ancient myths, which were the ideological pillar of the ancient centralized state, built along the principles of Chinese Law, did not work well within the new political system; new myths were required". [4]

So, one hundred years after the death of the Michizane, the cult finally took its shape. (However this does not mean that the idea of his evil spirit completely disappeared.) The basis of the cult amounted to folk beliefs, and the speediness of its development was caused by a combination of Buddhist and Shinto traditions. After it the long period of the development of the cult within the concept of honji suijaku began.

In the 11th and 12th centuries in the tideway of the prevailing concepts of Shinto-Buddhist correspondences Michizane began to be perceived as the embodiment of bodhisattva Kannon or, in Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara (the juxtaposition of Tenjin and Kannon). At the end of the 12th century, Japanese religious life became more diverse. The evolution of the Tenjin cult was in many ways defined by the appearance of new Buddhist teachings and by the intensifying of the religious developments in general. Apparently, it was a further progress of the Tenjin character towards a saviour deity who protects from smear and generously rewards honesty; towards a saviour deity who helped followers to reborn in the Pure Land. Wildly spread belief in Amida-Buddha was very attractive due to its promise of an easy way to salvation. In his earlier revelations Tenjin promised generous reward to anyone who pays homage to him, the exact parallel with the promise of salvation in Amida Buddhism. References to the Tenjin as a saviour can also be found in some other sources dated at the end of the 12th century - namely written vows kisyomon, addressed to Tenjin.[5]

Analysis of the sources from the 10th through 12th centuries allows accurate reconstruction of the mapping process. If at the earlier stages of the cult formation, the Michizane's spirit, under the influence of the Buddhist schools Tendai and Shingon, was associated with the dwellers of heaven, so called devas, now he became a good Deity who protects the Buddhist Teaching and its followers. It can be presented schematically: Michizane's spirit; deva, who is the Defender or the Protector of the Law (Dharma); good deity, protecting Dharma, and savior deity; embodiment of Kannon Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: Avalokiteśvara), Goddess of Mercy.

The sacred history of the Tenjin cult comprehensively reflected in The Kitano Tenjin engi, in the earliest extant version (dated 1194) Kenkyu-hon.[6] It was the first canonical history of the Tenjin cult and its shrine in Kyoto. Similar to many other cults, the Tenjin cult borrowed Buddhist genre - engi - to put in writing its history and as an instrument in its missionary activities. Engi (縁起, in Sanskrit pratītya-samutpāda) is one of the most important categories of Buddhist philosophy. It is variously rendered into English as "dependent arising" or "conditioned genesis". Apart from its main philosophical meaning, this term also applies as a reference to the start or creation of something. In Japan, the word engi was also used to refer to the texts designated to the origins and history of a temple or shrine, usually amplified with legends or miraculous stories.

The Kitano Tenjin engi combines biography and catalogue of miracles performed by Michizane's spirit together with the history of the cult's centre in Kitano. At present, only a scroll dated 1828 is available, although this scroll has a reference to the exact date when the original engi was written: on the year of 1194. Despite some degree of controversy about precision of this date, the Japanese researchers are united in the opinion that the original scroll was written about that time and appears to be the first known engi of the Tenjin cult.[7]

The cult's internal necessity to write down its own history coincided with political desires of the Kujos who were behind the creation of the first engi dedicated to Tenjin. It is worth to mention that an author of The Kitano Tenjin Engi is not precisely established so far. There are two main versions of The Engi's authorship. According to one of them, the author was Jien, the chief priest of the Tendai school, a member of the Kujo family, (who wrote the famous Gukansho, Jottings of a Fool). Another version identifies The Engi's author as Sugawara Tamenaga, Michizane's descendant.[8] Sugawara Tamenaga belonged to the priesthood of the Kitano shrine which, at that time, was supervised by the Tendai school. In this case, the clear emphasis in The Engi on the role of the Kujo can be explained by the authors dependency on the family. This assumption is supported by the established fact that the first illustrated version of The Kitano Tenjin Engi was made in 1219 by a member of the Kujo family.

Buddhist philosophy and didactics lie at the foundation of The Engi, although The Engi itself belongs to Shinto's domain. The author, whoever he was, critically recycled earlier sources during the process of preparing the materials for his work. In connection with that we would like to mention a citation attributed to A. Ya. Gurevich who was a Russian medieval researcher. In his work "The Сategories of The Medieval Culture", speaking about Western culture, he wrote: "In the Middle Ages, the repeat of the thoughts of the ancients was prowess while speaking out on the new ideas denounced".[9] We can observe that it was common not only in the Western Medieval period but also during the Eastern Middle Ages.

There are two main parts in this engi. First - the biography of Michizane in the tradition of hagiographic literature, second - the description of the origin and development of the sanctuary in Kitano. In the first part the engi's author relied on evidence - though he rejected that which did not fit into his biographical narrative, including folk and opposition elements of the cult, or that was irrelevant for him - and only occasionally brightened facts with legends. The second part is based on the stories of miracles, so it is characterized by vivid and lengthy description that will appeal to the imagination and emotions of the reader, and historical events were shown through sanctification or fictional events. Tenjin is referred as a saviour, helping people to reach in the Pure Land.[10]

In our research we divided The Engi's text on episodes: each of them is designated to some particular, relatively restricted event. The result was a set consisting of forty «relatively independent» fragments (with the exemption of introduction and conclusion). Analysis of the author's preferences in selecting events to be included in The Engi and the ways he interpreted them made it possible to outline the most meaningful or important, from the author's opinion, moments in Michizane's life as well as ones in the history of the cult's formation.

In the version of the history of Michizane's life, the author puts a special emphasis on Michizane's poetry talent. Michizane's literature merits were described with a certain degree of exoneration of the real and often pretty much ordinary facts. What is more, Michizane's poetry gift was explained by stating that he was a reincarnation of a bodhisattva. A great deal of attention is also paid to the forced retirement and consequent exile of the main hero. It was clear unfairness and it paved the way to the hero's deification. In contrary, the author did not show any interest in Michizane's historical studies despite the fact that these studies were rather famous and had been described well in the earlier text sources using by the author. Equally, some important developments, which were significant not only in the context of Michizane's life but also in the history and culture of Japan as a country, were completely overlooked: as an example, the Michizane's famous proposal for the cancellation of an official embassy to the Tang's China was not even mentioned in The Engi.

As for the interpretation of historical events, The Engi's author always marks them with some degree - more or less - of the superstitious involvement. Ordinary facts became miracles when The Engi's hero is compared with Buddha Shakyamuni (description of the hero's death) or explaining the reality with "god-like" essence of Michizane (literature talents). Also, some undisputed miracles (like transforming into a deity) are presented as real facts.

The Engi explains how under the influence of folk beliefs and Buddhist representations an "earthly" man turned into a "heavenly deity". This transformation can be described as follows: the miracle of birth - superstitious abilities - living without sin - the unfair exile - transformation into a deity in the land of the living - the revenge exacted by his vengeful spirit on perpetrators (with permission granted by the Buddhist and Shinto Heavenly Deities) - the governor of fierce deities but obedient follower of Buddha - the patron of his worshippers - the defender of Buddha Law who punishes offenders - the patron of unfairly accused who also helps people to reach in the Pure Land (a saviour deity) - the embodiment of Kannon Bodhisattva.

The engi's author studied available sources and then carefully selected out those facts that helped to represent Michizane as the epitome of the bodhisattva Kannon. This representation was done within the concept honji-suijaku which reinterpreted Tenjin, the spirit of Michizane (or Michizane himself) as the "local trace, manifest trace" of the "original form, original ubstance" of Kannon Bodhisattva. So, according to The Engi, Sugawara Michizane was not a man who became a deity-kami, he was the bodhisattva Kannon who had been originally embodied in him. The entire history of the cult was represented as the history of the worship of the incarnation of the bodhisattva. That was the picture of the cult's history as it was seen by the author of the end of the 12th century.

The main stages in the formation of the Tenjin cult are in general identified in The Engi. However due to the author's interpretation and the using of sources, written long after the events happened, the stages is chronologically displaced or blurred. It should be said that The Engi presents a canonical version of the cult's history. It became the basis which later was further enriched by legends and tales.

The description of the sacred history of the cult of Tenjin reflected the interaction of the autochthonous and borrowed religious traditions, which determined its composite nature: local beliefs that formed the basis of the cult (pacification of angry evil spirits; worship of the deities of Heaven and Earth, ancestor worship); Chinese philosophy (Confucianism, belief in Heaven); Buddhism (incarnation of the bodhisattva). Formation of the Tenjin cult is a distinctive example of how the young Japanese civilization - in comparison with the age of Chinese and Indian counterparts - put in good use the creative potential of religions which were originated from different civilization areas.

In different periods of history, depending on the current circumstances at that time, one or another component of the cult became prominent. Obviously during the period of writing the first engi about Tenjin, the spiritual dominant of Japanese society was Buddhism. This flexibility provided the cult an opportunity to adopt itself to the flavour of the time. For example, following the spread of Confucianism in Japan during the Tokugawa period, 1603-1868, the Tenjin cult acquired distinctive Confucian characteristics. And namely in the Tokugawa Period scholars and educators came to regard him as a patron of scholarship. In that period the Tenjin cult acquired its current features: Tenjin was well regarded as the patron saint of science and education.

[1] Kitano Tenjin Engi / Nihon Shisou Taikei. Jisha engi. Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1975, vol. 20. P. 144-168.

[2] We based on:

Kitano Tenjin Go-den, Kanke Go-Denki, Kitano Tenman Jizai Tenjingu Soken Yamashiro-no Kuni-no Kado-no Kamutsuhayashi-no Go-Engi, Tengyo Sangatsu Futsuka Tori-no Toki Temman Tenjin Go-Takusenki, Eikan Ninen Roku Gatsu Nijuku

Nichi Takusenki, Shoryaku Sannen Juni Gatsu Yokka Takusanki, Shoryaku Yonen Hachi Gatsu Hatsuka Takusenki, Sai Kan-shojo Byo Gammon, Doken Shonin Meitoki Kitano-dera Sou Saichin Kibun / Shinto taikei. Jinja hen. Kitano. Tokyo, Seikosha, 1978. Vol. 11.

Shomonki / Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshu. Tokyo, Kogakkan, 2002. Vol.41.

Seiji Youryaku / Shintei Zoho Kokushi Taikei. Tokyo, Yoshikawa kobunkan, 1964. Vol. 28.

Okagami / Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei. Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1960. Vol.20.

Fujiwara Kiyosuke. Fukuro-zoshi / Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei. Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1995. Vol.29.

Ooe Masafusa. Godansho / Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei. Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1997. Vol.32.

[3] The goryuo shinkou, the cult of vengeful spirits, was based on a belief in spirits onryo. "Before the rise of the goryo ceremonies, the belief that the spirits of wronged people become threatening angry spirits (onryo 怨霊) was an accepted "fact," and one finds the traces of such spirits throughout history. It is possible to say that the goryo represent a further evolution of the onryo". Kuroda Toshio. The World of Spirit Pacification. Issues of State and Religion (Translated by Allan Grapard) / Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 1996, 23/3-4. P. 328.

[4] Kasai, Masaaki. Tenjin Engi Setsuwa-no Seiritsu (Creation of Tenjin legendary tales) / Sugawara Michizane and Tenmangu Shrine in Dazaifu. Dazaifu Tenmngu kenkyusho, 1975. V. 1, p. 493.

[5] Makabe Toshinou. Tenjin shinko shi-no kenkyu (Research of The History of The Tenjin Cult). Tokyo, Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Kansei Kai, 1994. P.7-8.

[6] It is worth mentioning that in 1219 the first illustrated scroll Kitano Tenjin engi had appeared. Now it is stored in the Kitano Tenmangu (Shrine) and have National Treasure status.

[7] Kaidai (Annotation) / Shinto Taikei. Kitano. P.13-14.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Gurevich, Aron Ya. The Сategories of The Medieval Culture. Moscow: Iscusstvo, 1972. P.18.

[10] Kitano Tenjin Engi. P.168.

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