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Dr. Kimberly Harui: Hare-Horses, Jujubes, and Emerald Trees: A Japanese Monk’s Impressions of Medieval China

Asian Studies Lecture

In 1072, Jōjin (1011-1081), a sixty-one-year-old monk of Japan’s Tendai sect, boarded a Chinese merchant ship docked in Kabeshima (modern Saga) headed for Mingzhou (modern Ningbo) on the eastern coast of Northern Song (960-1279) China. Following the convention of his predecessors, Jōjin kept a daily record of his travels from the time he first boarded the Chinese merchant ship in Kabeshima to the day he sent his diary back to Japan with his disciples in 1073. Jōjin’s diary in eight fascicles, A Record of a Pilgrimage to Tiantai and Wutai Mountains (San Tendai Godaisan ki), is one of the longest extant travel accounts concerning medieval China. It includes a detailed compendium of anecdotes on material culture, flora and fauna, water travel, and bureaucratic procedures during the Northern Song, as well as the transcription of official documents, inscriptions, Chinese texts, and lists of personal purchases and official procurements. The encyclopedic nature of Jōjin’s diary is highly valued for the insight it provides into the daily life, court policies, and religious institutions of eleventh-century China, and Jōjin’s personal musings reveal the wonders and amazement experienced by a foreign monk in a distant land.

About the speaker

Dr. Kimberly Harui is Post-Doctoral Visiting Professor of Asian Studies at Calvin College. Her research focuses on the broader implications of the interplay between religion and literature across East Asia. In particular, she is interested in travel writing and monastic diaries from the Tang and Song dynasties of China and the Heian and Kamakura periods in Japan. In her research, she examines how personal writings on travel and pilgrimage inform notions of space and place.

February 2019
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