Banner Image Source Original image held by the Harvard-Yenching Library
of the Harvard College Library, Harvard University

June 2020

About the cover

On the cover of this issue of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies is a tiny circular shrine, barely three centimeters in diameter, with a sculpture of the Esoteric Wisdom King Aizen Myōō 愛染明王, also known as the Lust-Drenched King. The shrine was one of more than seventy dedicatory objects placed inside a small statue of Prince Shōtoku 聖徳太子 (574–622), who is known as the father of Buddhism in Japan. The statue, Shōtoku Taishi at Age Two, is commonly known as the Sedgwick Shōtoku, after Ellery Sedgwick, the owner and editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who bought the statue from a Japanese art dealer in 1936. Prince Shōtoku is the subject of countless legends about his life and religious works; the Harvard statue represents one of them. At the age of two, the prince “faced toward the east, placed his hands together in prayer, and uttered his first words of homage to the Buddha. Miraculously, at that very moment a tiny vessel appeared in his hands containing a relic of the Buddha Śākyamuni, his left eye to be precise.”1

The Sedgwick Shōtoku dates to around 1292, as do the artifacts within. There are two small carvings of Aizen Myōō among the texts and other articles discovered within the statue’s interior cavity. Aizen (known in Sanskrit as Rāgarāja) belongs to the class of beings that protect the faithful and subdue evil—in this case by eliminating the obstructions to spiritual enlightenment presented by vulgar love. The presence of two sculptures of Aizen suggests that whoever commissioned the Sedgwick Shōtoku had a close connection to the monk Eison’s 叡尊 (1201–1290) reformist Shingon-Ritsu 真言律 movement, for Aizen was Eison’s personal deity.2 The cover image shows, on the top, Aizen with weapons in his many hands and a bell and thunderbolt directly in front of his body. On the bottom is the shrine’s lid, carved with an urn filled with cosmic jewels. Presumably, the diminutive shrine was intended to be carried on the person.

1. John M. Rosenfeld, “The Sedgwick Statue of the Infant Shōtoku Taishi,” Archives of Asian Art 22 (1968): 56.
2. Rachel Saunders, “Secrets of the Sedgwick Shōtoku,” Impressions (2019): 90–105.

The Sedgwick Shōtoku and its contents were the subject of an exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums in 2019, Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within, curated by Rachel Saunders, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums. The exhibition website,, offers a comprehensive introduction to the statue and its contents, including the Aizen shrine pictured on the cover. HJAS thanks the Harvard Art Museums for their kind permission to reproduce the image.

Small Image of Rãgavidyiarãja (J. Aizen Myōō) in a Circular Shrine, Kamakura ca. 1292. Wood; cinnabar-red pigment applied to the background; bow-and-arrow of thin metal wire; dia. 3.2 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Partial and promised gift of Walter C. Sedgwick in memory of Ellery Sedgwick Sr. and Ellery Sedgwick Jr., 2019.122.6. Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Editorial Preface & In Memoriam

Editorial Preface


A Monk for All Seasons

Visions of Jien (1155–1225) in Medieval Japan

Michael McCarty

Jien’s familial connection to the highest echelons of state bureaucracy ensured his rapid rise and fall within the Tendai Buddhist establishment, illustrating his duality as cleric and worldly politician. Yet the divided portrait of Jien refracted by different academic disciplines obscures Jien’s life and motivations. Using materials written by and about him, I examine Jien’s rise to prominence, his connection to the power centers of his day, his role as a spiritual authority, his investiture of land and positions to his disciples, and his often-ignored role as a prophetic visionary to paint a more holistic picture of his life. I argue that Jien held a consistent spiritually infused worldview most visible during a confrontation with his former sovereign, Retired Emperor Gotoba, on the eve of the Jōkyū War (1221). I argue we can only understand that confrontation by reconciling his political interests and his religious faith.

摘要 (日本語)

摘要 :宗教者でもあり政治家でもあった鎌倉時代の僧慈円 (1155–1225) は、政権中枢部 にあった親類の後援により天台座主に就任した。二心を抱いたという批判をしばしば浴 びたが、慈円の生涯と思想の検討をとおして、その信仰と政治思想が一貫したと論じる。

The Memory of an Assassin and Problems of Legitimacy in the Wang Jingwei Regime (1940–1945)

Zhiyi Yang 楊治宜

In early 1942, a poetry exchange about a painting on the ancient assassin Jing Ke took place among top collaborators at Nanjing. Chinese cultural memory of Jing Ke, long contested, shifted in the twentieth century, making him into a Republican and national hero, eventually symbolizing resistance against Japan. Thus, these poems, especially considering their Japanese readership, show that although cultural memory can be evoked as a legitimizing discourse to serve political needs, its plasticity gives it versatility. Wang’s own iconography as assassin, central in constructing the legitimacy of his regime, was a floating symbol that assumed varying meanings in different contexts. It simultaneously justified collaboration, assuming that Japan’s pan-Asianism would usher in a new unified Qin empire, and also resistance, assuming Wang Jingwei’s perceived readiness to make a personal sacrifice to save the nation.

摘要 (中文)

本文圍繞 1942 年初南京汪政權的菁英文人間的《易水送別圖》唱酬,通過荊 軻歷史形象的變遷,探討文化記憶的可塑性如何使其在多種語境下獲得多重意義。 它也是一個漂浮的符號,同時肯定抵抗與合作的合法性。

Industry and Its Motivations

Reading Tang Xianzu’s Examination Essay on the Problem of Excess Cloth

Alexander Des Forges 戴沙迪

Civil-service examination candidates in Ming and Qing China often encountered “small-topic” essay questions, which required them to restrict their analysis to a small fragment of a canonical text rather than a longer, coherent passage. Tang Xianzu’s (1550–1616) “The Woman Would Have Excess Cloth” is one such essay. I argue that this essay goes well beyond the original passage of the Mengzi from which the topic was drawn: it proposes that the ability to exchange one’s excess production on the market is appropriate motivation for an individual to continue to produce. Beginning from the specific case of the woman whose weaving exceeds the needs of her own household, Tang alludes as well to the written work engaged in by literati, framing the sale of cloth and the exchange of letters and prefaces as ethical means of sustaining the motivation on which social discipline is grounded.

摘要 (中文)

明清時期的科舉考生常遇到立意狹窄的 “小題” 題目,迫使他們翻空出奇。 湯顯祖的 “女有餘布” 即為一例。此文超出了孟子原文的本意,展開一種經濟與道德並行的新分析。為避免盈餘對生產動機的負面影響,湯提倡文人、織女均可以售物而介入市場交換,以達致修身齊家的境界。

If Not Philosophy, What Is Xinxue 心學?

Tina Lu 呂立亭

I examine the impact of Xinxue (the study of the mind), whose most celebrated teacher was Wang Yangming, not as that of a philosophical or quasi-religious movement, but as a body of editorial practices to be situated among other sixteenth-century textual practices. In the twentieth century, Chuanxi lu (Instructions for practical living) has been read for philosophical content, a category that would have been alien to its sixteenth-century creators. Examining what the editors and compilers of the prefaces and postfaces of Chuanxi lu and Wang Wencheng gong quanshu (Complete works of Wang Yangming) have to say about the construction of these texts, I posit that the content of Xinxue’s teachings—especially, “knowledge and action are one”—cannot be dissociated from the agency of editors in producing these texts.

摘要 (中文)

本文審視明代心學的影響。不將其視為哲學性或類宗教性的運動,本文將其視為十六世紀各種文本編纂活動中的一種編輯實踐。藉由檢視《傳習錄》與 《王文成公全集》編纂者在序跋中所言,我提議:心學的內容,特別是「知行 合一」,不能與編輯們的能動性分離。

Review essays

Material Culture and Fashion in Tang China and Beyond

Rebecca Doran

Footbinding in Economic Context: Rethinking the Problems of Affect and the Prurient Gaze

Melissa J. Brown

Book reviews

Goddess on the Frontier: Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China by Megan Bryson

Donald S. Sutton

Bannermen Tales (Zidishu): Manchu Storytelling and Cultural Hybridity in the Qing Dynasty by Elena Suet-Ying Chiu

Stephen Wadley

Forming the Early Chinese Court: Rituals, Spaces, Roles by Luke Habberstad

Charles Sanft

The Reception of Du Fu (712–770) and His Poetry in Imperial China by Ji Hao

Michael A. Fuller

A Revolutionary Artist of Tibet: Khyentse Chenmo of Gongkar by David P. Jackson

Amy Heller

The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion by Peter Jackson

Morris Rossabi

Hyecho’s Journey: The World of Buddhism by Donald S. Lopez Jr., et al.

Richard D. McBride II

Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan by Bryan D. Lowe

Torquil Duthie

Genshin’s Ōjōyōshū and the Construction of Pure Land Discourse in Heian Japan by Robert F. Rhodes

Bryan D. Lowe

Forgotten Disease: Illnesses Transformed in Chinese Medicine by Hilary A. Smith

Miranda Brown

Naming the Local: Medicine, Language, and Identity in Korea since the Fifteenth Century by Soyoung Suh

Jung Lee

The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China by Michael Szonyi

Kenneth M. Swope

The Origins of the Chinese Nation: Song China and the Forging of an East Asian World Order by Nicolas Tackett

Charles Holcombe

Luxurious Networks: Salt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China by Yulian Wu

Jonathan Schlesinger

From Domestic Women to Sensitive Young Men: Translating the Individual in Early Colonial Korea by Yoon Sun Yang

Travis Workman

Figuring Korean Futures: Children’s Literature in Modern Korea by Dafna Zur

Jin-kyung Lee