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Buddhism and Medicine in Japan

A Topical Survey (500-1600 CE) of a Complex Relationship

This book demonstrates the close link between medicine and Buddhism in early and medieval Japan. It may seem difficult to think of Japanese Buddhism as being linked to the realm of medical practices since religious healing is usually thought to be restricted to prayers for divine intervention. There is a surprising lack of scholarship regarding medicinal practices in Japanese Buddhism although an overwhelming amount of primary sources proves otherwise.

A careful re-reading of well-known materials from a study-of-religions perspective, together with in some cases a first-time exploration of manuscripts and prints, opens new views on an understudied field. The book presents a topical survey and comprises chapters on treating sight-related diseases, women’s health, plant-based materica medica and medicinal gardens, and finally horse medicine to include veterinary knowledge.

Terminological problems faced in working on this material – such as ‘religious’ or ‘magical healing’ as opposed to ‘secular medicine’ – are assessed. The book suggests focusing more on the plural nature of the Japanese healing system as encountered in the primary sources and reconsidering the use of categories from the European intellectual tradition.

Author Information

Katja Triplett, University of Leipzig, Germany.
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Audience: All those interested in the history of religions, Buddhism, East Asian and Japanese studies, alternative medicine