„Verrückte Sprache und ausgeschmückte Worte“ – Zum buddhistischen Diskurs über den Wert der Literatur im Rahmen der Genji-Rezeption des 12. Jahrhunderts

  • Sebastian Balmes (Autor/in)
    Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

    2013 Magister Artium in Japanologie, Sinologie und Tibetologie an der LMU München

    seit 2013 Promotionsstudium (Japanologie, Buddhismus-Studien) an der LMU

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When in the second half of the 12th century the belief spread that Murasaki Shikibu had fallen into hell for writing her famous work of fiction, the Genji monogatari, a Buddhist ritual seemed to be the only way of ensuring her salvation. This ritual, which is described in the liturgical text Genji ipponkyō [kuyō hyōbyaku] by the Tendai monk Chōken, focuses even more on Murasaki’s listeners and readers than on the author herself. According to the Genji ipponkyō, the emotions of the readership impeding their spiritual progress lead to a karmic bond between them and the author, causing them all to fall into hell. The ritual devised by Chōken links the Genji monogatari to the Lotus Sūtra and inverts the “faults by elegant words” so that they become the cause of enlightenment.

Through an analysis of the Genji ipponkyō and other liturgical texts, Buddhist conceptions of literature are examined. It is shown that the expression “wild words and fancy phrases” (kyōgen kigo) was used in a range of meanings: not only could it be used to posit a critical stance on literature or the interpretation of literature as an “expedient device” (hōben), but it could also refer to a non-dualistic view of language, thus corresponding to the expression “coarse words and gentle phrases” (sogon nango). Comparing the Genji ipponkyō to another text by Chōken evolving around poetry, this article also explores how different literary activities influenced the content of rituals and how Chōken evaluated poetry and fiction. Finally, by contrasting Chōken’s thoughts with the monk-poet Jakuchō’s defense of Murasaki’s writing in his Ima kagami it is argued that ‒ as opposed to the premise that Buddhism oppressed literary endeavors in medieval Japan ‒ although Jakuchō uses different arguments to deny Murasaki’s guilt, Chōken’s ritual is more affirmative in regard to literature.


Akademisches Fachgebiet und Untergebiete
Forschungsansatz, -methode oder -verfahren
Philologisch, Hermeneutik, Rezeptionsgeschichte
literary studies, Genji monogatari, Murasaki Shikibu, Genji kuyou