Book Announcement: Zen and Material Culture

Zen and Material Culture

Edited by Pamela D. Winfield and Steven Heine

Oxford University Press, 2017

The stereotype of Zen Buddhism as a minimalistic or even immaterial meditative tradition persists in the Euro-American cultural imagination. This volume calls attention to the vast range of “stuff” in Zen by highlighting the material abundance and iconic range of the Soto, Rinzai, and Obaku sects in Japan. Chapters on beads, bowls, buildings, staffs, statues, rags, robes, and even retail commodities in America all shed new light on overlooked items of lay and monastic practice in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Nine authors from the cognate fields of art history, religious studies, and the history of material culture analyze these “Zen matters” in all four senses of the phrase: the interdisciplinary study of Zen’s matters (objects and images) ultimately speaks to larger Zen matters (ideas, ideals) that matter (in the predicate sense) to both male and female practitioners, often because such matters (economic considerations) help to ensure the cultural and institutional survival of the tradition.

Zen and Material Culture expands the study of Japanese Zen Buddhism to include material inquiry as an important complement to mainly textual, institutional, or ritual studies. It also broadens the traditional purview of art history by incorporating the visual culture of everyday Zen objects and images into the canon of recognized masterpieces by elite artists. Finally, the volume extends Japanese material and visual cultural studies into new research territory by taking up Zen’s rich trove of materia liturgica and supplementing the largely secular approach to studying Japanese popular culture. This groundbreaking volume will be a resource for anyone whose interests lie at the intersection of Zen art, architecture, history, ritual, tea ceremony, women’s studies, and the fine line between Buddhist materiality and materialism.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Zen Matters – Pamela D. Winfield and Steven Heine

1. “Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Discomfort Me:” Zen Staffs As Implements of Instruction – Steven Heine
2. Materializing the Zen Monastery – Pamela D. Winfield

3. Form and Function: Tea Bowls and the Problem of Zen in Chanoyu – Morgan Pitelka

4. Prayer Beads in Sōtō Zen – Michaela Mross

5. The Importance of Imports: Ingen’s Material Culture at Manpukuji – Patricia J. Graham

6. Visual Culture in Japan’s Imperial Buddhist Convents: The Making of Devotional Objects as Expressions of Religious Devotion and Practice – Patricia Fister

7. Zen Buddhist Robes and Sectarian Identities in Early Modern Japan – Diane E. Riggs

8. The Zen of Rags – Paula Arai

9. Zen Sells Zen Things: Meditation Supply, Right Livelihood, and Buddhist Retail – Gregory P.A. Levine

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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