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Bonds of the Dead Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism by Mark Michael Rowe

Bonds of the Dead Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

Part of the Buddhism and Modernity Series


Bonds of the Dead Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism by Mark Michael Rowe

Despite popular images of priests seeking enlightenment in snow-covered mountain temples, the central concern of Japanese Buddhism is death. For that reason, Japanese Buddhism's social and economic base has long been in mortuary services - a base now threatened by public debate over the status, treatment, and location of the dead. Bonds of the Dead explores the crisis brought on by this debate and investigates what changing burial forms reveal about the ways temple Buddhism is perceived and propagated in contemporary Japan. Mark Michael Rowe offers a crucial account of how religious, political, social, and economic forces in the twentieth century led to the emergence of new funerary practices in Japan and how, as a result, the care of the dead has become the most fundamental challenge to the continued existence of Japanese temple Buddhism. Far from marking the death of Buddhism in Japan, Rowe argues, funerary Buddhism reveals the tradition at its most vibrant. Combining ethnographic research with doctrinal considerations, this is a fascinating book for anyone interested in Japanese society and religion.


Bonds of the Dead contains a wealth of fascinating information that reminds us that human societies rely on religion to confront the insurmountable problem of death. (William Bodiford, University of California, Los Angeles)

About the Author

Mark Michael Rowe is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Ontario.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th December 2011


Mark Michael Rowe

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University of Chicago Press an imprint of The University of Chicago Press


256 pages





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