7. Religion and the Imperial Body Politic of Japan

The Religious Body Imagined - Pamela D. Winfield

Pamela D. Winfield [+-]
Elon University
Pamela D. Winfield is Professor of Buddhist Studies at Elon University and specializes in Japanese Buddhist art and doctrine. She has edited three special issues of the peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal CrossCurrents (2014, 2017, 2019) and was the lead co-editor (with Steven Heine) of Zen and Material Culture (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is also the author of the award-winning Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kūkai and Dōgen on the Art of Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2013; Association of Asian Studies – Southeastern Conference Book Award, 2015) and numerous articles on religion and visual culture. Her research has been supported by the American Academy of Religion, the Association of Asian Studies, the Asian Cultural Council, and others. She serves on the Body and Religion steering committee and co-chairs the Art, Literature, and Religion Unit at the American Academy of Religion, and has convened or co-convened numerous conferences and conference panels that explore religious conceptions of the body.


Pamela D. Winfield invites us to join her on a journey throughout the history of Japan, in order to elucidate the treatment given to the emperor’s body, not only physically, but also visually and ritually. In her article, ‘Religion and the Imperial Body Politic of Japan,’ infield argues that, although this notion of body politic only emerged technically during the early modern period, it was already present in premodern Buddhist teachings and was reinforced by cultural enactments that identified the body of the emperor with his empire and sought out the health of the former to ensure the wellbeing of the latter. Winfield provides a rich historical, historiographical, and theoretical analysis of the emperor’s rhetorical, artistic, and ceremonial body-state, emphasizing the centrality of his human, physical body while framing his religious and political authority over Japan.

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Winfield, Pamela. 7. Religion and the Imperial Body Politic of Japan. The Religious Body Imagined. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jan 2024. ISBN 9781781799727. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44342. Date accessed: 07 Feb 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44342. Jan 2024

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