Building Buddhist Heritage in Postwar Japan: The Silk Road between History and Memory at Yakushiji Temple

01 October 2023 → 30 September 2026
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Museum studies
    • Asian history
    • Japanese language
    • Theories of religions
    • Comparative study of religion
Cultural Heritage Japanese Buddhism History and Memory
Project description

This project analyzes the interactions between religion and cultural heritage in twentieth century Japan as a venue to investigate the legacy of imperialism in the construction of modern ideas and images of Buddhism, and to explore the possibility of building transnational forms of identity, memory, and community. It focuses on a case study of a religious community, Yakushiji temple, where the same moral discourse of a spiritual connection with the past motivates both the preservation of the artistic heritage of the temple and memorialization rituals for the lay community. This case study is historically contextualized within the legacy of modern ideological uses of Buddhism as a pan-Asian connection to support Japanese imperialism on one side, and on the other within postwar Japanese use of the preservation of the Buddhist cultural heritage along the Silk Road as a soft power tool to promote peaceful international collaborations. By combining historical with anthropological approaches, this project fills an important gap in the study of modern Buddhism and Japanese religions. It also offers a theoretical contribution to the field of religion and heritage studies by looking at it from an Asian perspective through a postcolonial and transnational approach. Finally, by analyzing Buddhist concepts in various media representations of the Silk Road (travel accounts, fiction, art, and TV documentaries), it will broaden the scope of the study of religion and heritage.