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1.3 Translation of Japanese Article on Chinese Mummies

Last update: 12 March 2010

<Source Article: 永井正之. 1996. 香港のミイラ信仰.  中村璋八博士古稀記念:東洋学論集.>

For a photograph of the mummy Yuexi (Yuet Kai), see photograph 5.1.27, here.

Mummy Belief in Hong Kong: Introduction to the Mummy Yuexi Xinyuan 月溪心圓 of Ten-thousand Buddhas Monastery in Shatian (1)

NAGAI Masashi


Concerning Beliefs about Zhenshen 真身 (“true bodies”) in Chinese Buddhism

I have already mentioned my position on research on Chinese Buddhism, especially on the Chan school, in my article “Yuan and Ming Period Chan.” (2) Although I should avoid rediscussion, I still must first restate the following points. In short, regarding research done in Japan on the Chinese Chan school, with a few exceptions, most research has been limited to subjects directly related to developments in the Japanese Zen school. For such research, divided in terms of time period, the Tang and Song are central, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that topics on developments in Chinese Chan after that period, whether historical or philosophical, are mostly untouched. Furthermore, even in research about the Tang-Song period, mainstream research is exceedingly restricted in scope, such that if it’s on Buddhism then it’s limited to the realm of Buddhism, and if it’s on the Chan school then it’s limited to the Chan school. Research topics on connections to philosophical thought located on the periphery of such categories have also not been explored. Furthermore, we could say the same thing regarding the connections between Buddhism or the Chan school and the common people.
      Although the question of how to break through this kind of deadlock is the task currently facing this writer, conclusions will not be forthcoming right away, and there are piles of work to be done. <page 868>
       Incidentally, as for the present topic of beliefs about zhenshen (“true bodies”) in Chinese Buddhism, namely beliefs about eminent monks who have been mummified, I have already presented some results of my investigations in “An Aspect in the Establishment of Chinese Buddhism: A Preliminary Essay Concerning Cremation and Mummies.”(3) As for my raising the topic of mummies as one element in research on Chinese Buddhist mortuary ritual, immediately after the publication of my article, as a fruit of research into mummies per se, the book “Research on Mummy Belief in Japan and China” was published. (4)        


(1) Shatian 沙田, in Hong Kong, is romanized Shatin to represent Cantonese pronunciation. For consistency, in this translation I romanize all Chinese words into Hanyu Pinyin. Translator.
(2) NAGAI Masashi 永井政之. 1994. “Gen・mindai no zen 元・明代の禅.” In Zengaku kenkyū nyūmon 禅学研究入門. Ed. TANAKA Ryōshō 田中良昭. Tōkyō: Daitō shuppansha 大東出版社. Author.
(3) NAGAI Masashi 永井政之. 1990. “Chūgoku bukkyō seiritsu no ichi sokumen: dabi to miira no megutte no shiron 中国仏教成立の一側面―荼毘と木乃伊をめぐっての試論.” In Komazawa daigaku bukkyō gakubu ronshū 駒澤大学仏教学部論集 21. Author.
(4) Nihon Miira Kenkyū Gurūpu 日本ミイラ研究グループ, Ed. 1993. Nihon, Chūgoku miira shinkō no kenkyū 日本・中国ミイラ信仰の研究. Tōkyō : Heibonsha 平凡社. Author.

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