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Buddhism in the Context of a New Relationship between State and Society in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Christiane Banse

The Case of True Pure Land Buddhism (Jōdo Shinshū 浄土真宗) In the middle of the nineteenth century, the political situation in Japan changed in the wake of the opening of the country and the Meiji revolution of 1868. This also had a huge impact on the situation of the various Buddhist schools in Japan, e.g. the Jōdo Shinshū, which is the key focus of this PhD project. In the years following the Meiji revolution, the Buddhist schools had to redefine themselves spiritually, intellectually, and institutionally with regard to their mission practices and their relation towards the policy of the Meiji government. These developments are analyzed by an exemplary study of the activities and writings of Akamatsu Renjō 赤松連城 (1841–1919). Akamatsu was a priest of the Jōdo Shinshū and one of the most important representatives of his school. In addition, he was strongly involved in the modernization efforts of Buddhism. He operated in Japan as well as abroad and was an important actor in the decision-making processes especially concerning administration, mission and charity work. Through the analysis of his engagement both in written and practical form, I will be able to learn how Buddhism in Japan positioned itself in the context of a reforming state and society.

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