“Performance and Practice in Kyoto” will be taught in Kyoto, Japan, at Ritsumeikan University, from June 9 to July 23. Led by Thomas Hare, the William Sauter LaPorte '28 Professor in Regional Studies and a professor of comparative literature, this course explores the links between Zen practice and monastic life on the one hand, and several Japanese arts, including ink painting, noh drama, shakuhachi performance, tea ceremony, and poetry, on the other. It is designed for students interested in traditional East Asia, religion, the interaction of texts and the arts, or any combination of these. There are no prerequisites, and no prior knowledge of East Asia is presumed. Students will, however, through successful completion of the course, gain knowledge of the rough outlines of Japanese history, an understanding of the mechanics of East Asian writing systems, and a general understanding of Mahâyâna Buddhism, as well as a detailed knowledge of the materials that are the specific focus of the course.
The course begins with a general sketch of East Asian history as it relates to the materials in the course, with more specific focus on the mechanics of East Asian writing and an introduction to Buddhism. Students will consider the challenge of Zen thought to traditional modes of Buddhist practice and philosophy, looking at The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, a foundational Chinese text on Zen (or, more properly, “Chan”), and then investigate the importation of Chan/Zen thought to Japan, especially by the Sôtô patriarch, Dôgen, and the Linqi/Rinzai abbots of Kamakura in the thirteenth century.
The seminar next considers Zen in Kyoto and in foundational sites at the Kenninji, Nanzenji, and Daitokuji temples (with field trips to each.) Students will be introduced to Zen meditation in the context of the temples of Kyôto and learn about the dramatic growth of Zen institutions in Kyoto and the concomitant desire to remove the mind away from the irritations of bureaucratic life through the landscape painting genre called shigajiku.
The shigajiku will introduce students to some of the primary figures in religious institutions who directed the course of Zen practice and its cultural manifestations through an examination of chinsô portraiture. The seminar then moves outside the monasteries and great temple complexes to consider Zen in a secular context, first with the development of the Noh drama, and then in consideration of medieval poetry and poetics, various genres of medieval music, and the unique institutions and practices of the tea ceremony.
The course concludes by drawing distinctions between medieval Zen and its arts, and the burgeoning townspeople’s culture of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Kyoto and Ôsaka.
Classes are held four days a week, with mornings devoted to lectures and discussions with faculty and guest speakers. The afternoon program includes daily Japanese language study and a community service component.
This course fulfills the Historical Analysis (HA) general requirement and is open to freshman, sophomores, and juniors.