Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds, smoke, gravestones

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Noel Pinnington

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Apr 20, 2009, 11:50:52 PM4/20/09
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Dear PMJS members,
 
In the Shinkokinshu poems on grief, we see frequent references to smoke, so it seems the dead were cremated, but then Shunzei, in his poem about his wife has her lying under a mound (tsuka) listening to the autumn wind. Also, later, No plays describe Heian nobles lying in and sometimes emerging from their tsuka. Did they emerge from their cremated remains? Basho many years later sees the coffins (hitsugi) of the three Fujiwara captains from the 12th century in a Buddhist hall (Yuasa’s translation describes them as “containing their bodies,” which is not in the original text). Why weren’t the coffins burnt with the bodies? What did they contain if the bodies were burnt? Were tsuka synonymous with haka?

Noel Pinnington

Matthew Stavros

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Apr 21, 2009, 12:07:33 AM4/21/09
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Dear Noel,

I can't comment on coffins (hitsugi) but can attest from reading texts as well a personal observation that cremation leaves remains of larger bones. In the past as well as today, these are customarily placed into containers and interred in haka or tsuka. This might explain why there are allusions to bodies despite their having been cremated.

Also want to mention that during the Heian period at least, cremation was out of reach for most commoners. They tended to leave bodies in hills while the poor abandonded them on the banks of rivers. There's some nice new scholarship that specifically treats Heian-kyo's aweful stench.

Matthew Stavros
www.mstavros.com
www.pmjs.org

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Noel Pinnington

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Apr 21, 2009, 12:33:49 AM4/21/09
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Thanks Matthew,

You must be right, I remember that in Hojoki there are descriptions of bodies left lying around in the roads and elsewhere.

By the way, I see in a commentary on the hitsugi that Basho saw, a note saying that they contained mummified bodies and are still extant. I wonder what lay behind that. I seem to remember that in ancient times, China had a mummification technology, as described, I think in Michael Loewe’s book: Ways to Paradise.

Noel



On 4/20/09 9:07 PM, "Matthew Stavros" <msta...@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Noel,

I can't comment on coffins (hitsugi) but can attest from reading texts as well a personal observation that cremation leaves remains of larger bones. In the past as well as today, these are customarily placed into containers and interred in haka or tsuka. This might explain why there are allusions to bodies despite their having been cremated.

Also want to mention that during the Heian period at least, cremation was out of reach for most commoners. They tended to leave bodies in hills while the poor abandonded them on the banks of rivers. There's some nice new scholarship that specifically treats Heian-kyo's aweful stench.

Matthew Stavros

[The FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (made law on 9 July 2008) legalizes warrantless wiretaps on US citizens. Email sent to or from this account (mstavros) may be under surveillance.]


On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 12:50 PM, Noel Pinnington <no...@email.arizona.edu> wrote:

Anthony Chambers

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Apr 21, 2009, 1:48:42 AM4/21/09
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I've heard the Hiraizumi Fujiwara remains described as mummies.  Apparently they're still there.  I don't know about Shunzei's wife, but one can visit Teika's rather small gravestone at Shokokuji.  It's definitely not a tsuka/mound, and I've always assumed that it contains his ashes, but I'm not certain of that.

Tony Chambers
--
Anthony H. Chambers
Professor of Japanese
Head, East and Southeast Asian Faculty
School of International Letters & Cultures
Arizona State University
Tempe AZ 85287-0202
480-965-0517
http://www.asu.edu/clas/silc/jpn/

Richard Bowring

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Apr 21, 2009, 3:54:49 AM4/21/09
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Noel.
It is perhaps worth restating the fact that most people could not
afford cremations (all that expensive wood) and so were either thrown
in the river or taken somewhat to rot; I presume the majority of
corpses in Heian Japan was simply treated as carrion. Burning a body
at the temperature that wood creates just gets rid of the skin and
organs and leaves the white bones essentially intact but brittle. To
reduce the whole to ashes you would have to pound the bones. As
Matthew Stavros has said, there would have been (and still is) a
double process. The bones are normally put into an urn (noukotsu).
Since these remains are now purified by the fire they can be moved
into sacred ground (a temple) and buried. I would like to think that
it is called a 'haka' when it is on temple ground and 'tsuka' when it
is not, but that is just supposition.
Richard Bowring

Matthew Stavros

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Apr 21, 2009, 4:29:53 AM4/21/09
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Anthony's mention of Teika's grave at Shokokuji (which is modest indeed) reminded me that many of the most prominent historical actors have several, if not many, mortuary sites. Is there a guiding principle that dictates the conditions under which a redundant mortuary site can be established? Does someone need to get a hold of a bone or shard or something?

My guess is no based merely on the fact that Nobunaga has several sites but I doubt any of his bones were picked out of the Honnoji inferno. (But Japan has a tradition of finding shards where there were none.)

Matthew Stavros
www.mstavros.com
www.pmjs.org


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Robert Borgen

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Apr 21, 2009, 8:09:36 AM4/21/09
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I remember reading somewhere--I think it was in my book on Michizane, although I don't have a copy with me here in Kyoto to make sure--that one time, when envoys from Parhae arrived in Japan, the court ordered that roadsides along the way be cleared of corpses before the envoys were escorted overland to the capital.  Apparently, dumping bodies by the roadside was an known practice, albeit one that the court wanted to hide from foreign guests.

Robert Borgen

Alexander Vovin

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Apr 21, 2009, 8:33:05 AM4/21/09
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At least in the Nara period, haka (OJ paka) can clearly refer to a
mound not found on temple grounds. Traditional Japanese scholarship
holds that haka is used as a reference to a burial itself, while tuka
is derived from the outer shape of a burial. I am not really convinced
by this point of view on several counts, but the philological
objection should be cited on this list: ariduka 'ant hill' found in
the earliest Heian dictionary Sinsen jikyoo appears twice in this
dictionary: once spelled phonographically as 阿利豆加 (5.20b), and once
semantographically as 蟻墓 (5.19a). This probably should tell us that at
least by the end of the ninth century haka and tuka were really not
much differentiated. haka is also a much more frequent word than tuka.
This is not to say that Richard's supposition is wrong -- the semantic
difference he proposed might very well developed in post-ninth century
Heian or later. Without surveying all examples of haka and tuka usage
in texts from Heian on it is difficult to tell.

Best,

Sasha

On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 9:54 AM, Richard Bowring <rb...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

I would like to think that
> it is called a 'haka' when it is on temple ground and 'tsuka' when it
> is not, but that is just supposition.
> Richard Bowring
>
>
> >
>



--
============
Alexander Vovin
Interim Chair and Professor (2008-2009)
Department of the Japanese Language and Literature
University of Bochum, Germany
Professor of East Asian Languages (on leave 2008-2009)
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA
========================
iustitiam magni facite, infirmos protegite

Cavanaugh, Carole

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Apr 21, 2009, 8:57:02 AM4/21/09
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Isn't the point about abandoned bodies, as mentioned in the Hojoki and in Konjaku monogatari, that the corpses were a sign of terrible times?
It's hard to imagine, in normal times, corpses lying in the street or on river banks where people were carrying on other everyday activities. I also can't imagine in a Buddhist or Shinto culture, or in any culture really, that the dead, even the poor, would not be disposed of to avoid spread of disease, as people understood it. People do act on common sense usually. The remains in Hiraizumi are mummies, as I recall, and not a typical example.

Is it possible that cremation was a rather new ("enlightened") way of disposing of the dead in the Heian period? Would this add another layer of meaning to the descriptions of deaths and funeral rites in Genji, for example?



Carole Cavanaugh
Japanese Department
Freeman International Center
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT
802-443-5782
cava...@middlebury.edu
________________________________________
From: pm...@googlegroups.com [pm...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Matthew Stavros [msta...@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 4:29 AM
To: pm...@googlegroups.com
Subject: [PMJS] Re: Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds, smoke, gravestones

Anthony's mention of Teika's grave at Shokokuji (which is modest indeed) reminded me that many of the most prominent historical actors have several, if not many, mortuary sites. Is there a guiding principle that dictates the conditions under which a redundant mortuary site can be established? Does someone need to get a hold of a bone or shard or something?

My guess is no based merely on the fact that Nobunaga has several sites but I doubt any of his bones were picked out of the Honnoji inferno. (But Japan has a tradition of finding shards where there were none.)

Matthew Stavros
www.mstavros.com<http://www.mstavros.com>
www.pmjs.org<http://www.pmjs.org>

[The FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (made law on 9 July 2008) legalizes warrantless wiretaps on US citizens. Email sent to or from this account (mstavros) may be under surveillance.]


Hank Glassman

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Apr 21, 2009, 10:05:16 AM4/21/09
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Hi All,

Wow! What a great discussion so far and so quickly! As for this last question raised by Carole, the possible meanings of cremation versus burial (preservation of the corpse, double burial, etc.) in the history of Japanese death ritual, I treat it briefly in the following:

Glassman, Hank. "“Chinese Buddhist Death Ritual and the Transformation of Japanese Kinship.” In The Buddhist Dead: Practices,
Discourses, Representations
, edited by Brian Cuevas and Jacqueline Stone. Honolulu: Kuroda Institute/University
of Hawaii Press, 2007.

However, I write not (only) to plug my article but rather to say to Matthew -- don't be coy, and please tell us the titles of those good new sources on the management of death in Heian kyo that you mention. "Inquiring minds want to know!"

thanks much,

Hank

Hank Glassman
Haverford College, Penna.

rptoby

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Apr 21, 2009, 12:14:24 PM4/21/09
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Dear Noel,

A couple of things come to mind that may be helpful.

1. A quick search for 葬礼、葬儀、埋葬、墓、塚、棺、etc., in the on-line 故事類苑 DB,  via the Shiryō Hensanjo HP (www.hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ships/shipscontroller), came up with a couple of hundred references, predominantly in the 宗教部、礼式部, and 帝王部. Of course, Koji ruien is more likely to reflect elite, normative practice than popular practice, but it may help.

2. Pictorial evidence:

A. The 北野天神縁起絵巻・巻八(承久本・i.e., early 13th c.), depicts a 埋葬 burial procession, with the deceased carried in a wooden coffin, grave-diggers at work, and the rest of the cemetery. At the left of the scene, crows and dogs feed on corpses laid out on the ground on mushiro. There are also graveyard scenes in the Shinran shōnin eden and numerous other emaki and hanging scrolls, including:

B. The Ippen hijiri-e (ca. 1300),  巻八, depicts what appears to be the corpse of a samurai floating past Shij
ō-bashi; the funeral procession of Nyoichi 如一上人 (巻九);  the wrapping of o-kotsu (巻七); Ippen's death and grave are pictured in 巻十二.

C. Gaki z
ōshi (late 12th c., according to the Heibonsha Nihon bijutushi jiten) has meticulous depictions of both grave-mounds and of corpses laid out (1) in an open wooden coffin--being eaten by a dog--and (2) on mushiro or bare ground. One of the corpses (female) on mushiro is posed like the Buddha's nehan.

D. To track down more emaki graves, corpses and burials, I used the Nihon jōmin seikatsu ebiki (5 v. + index, Heibonsha), which I've called a 'pictionary.' It's invaluable.

E. 熊野歓心十界曼荼羅. Though extant iterations likely date only from the 17th c., many depict a graveyard at the intersection between this life and the next, and the iconography is decidedly pre-Edo. Ikumi Kaminishi, Explaining Pictures, fig 7.2; `Max Moerman, Localizing Paradise, color plate 10; David W. Plath, Preaching from Pictures, DVD, available from Asian Educational Media Service, www.aems.illinois.edu.

Beyond this, although Nō texts are not, of course, 13th c., there are a number of plays where burial sites are important. In Sumidagawa, the mother's lost child has died at the ferry crossing, where he was buried in a mound--though he was a stranger there. I can't recall whether Lady Nijō passes any burials on her journey to Kamakura, but it's worth a look.

Volume 5 of the Gorai Shigeru chosakushu
ū (Hōzōkan, 2008) is Nihonjin no shisei-kan to sōbo shi, which should be a big help, as should:

勝田至『日本中世の墓と葬送』(吉川弘文館、2006)
―― 『死者たちの中世』(吉川弘文館, 2003)

狭川真一『墓と葬送 の中世』(高志書院, 2007)
五味文彦・斎木秀雄編『中世都市鎌倉と死の世界』
(高志書院, 2002)

Interestingly, these are the only books that come up on a Todai catalog search using 中世・葬・史 as subject words. A WebcatPlus search yielded over 100 hits, over half of them published since 2000; seems as if the medieval 'way of death' has recently become a hotter topic than before.

Finally, thanks one and all, for raising an interesting question!

Alexander Vovin

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Apr 21, 2009, 1:16:29 PM4/21/09
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This is very interesting -- I do not think we know much about the
burial practices of Parhae, but centuries later during the Yi dynasty
rotting bodies along roads was not uncommon sight -- I am sorry I
cannot give the verse and line of the text I have in mind from the
place I am now, but I would largely suspect that Parhae sanitary
conditions were no better than in Yi times (:-). So, it was a kind of
show, I guess -- we in the kami-land do it better than you guys (:-).

David Pollack

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Apr 21, 2009, 1:22:45 PM4/21/09
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The apparently common abandonment of corpses in the 12-13c is graphically depicted in the Rokudō-e and Kusōshi emaki(aka Danrin Kōgō kusōshi-zu) paintings of the stages of disintegration of an abandoned corpse, final disposal of which was left to crows and dogs. 

A bit of poking around turns up the information that Tachibana no Kachiko, wife of Emperor Saga and Empress (as Danrin Kōgō), left the following jisei at her death at age 65 in 850:

ware shinaba when i die
yakuna uzumuna do not burn or bury me
no ni sutete leave me in the wilds
yasetaru inu no where the scrawny dogs
hara o koyase yo can fatten their bellies

One eupemism for this outdoor disposal is fūsō, "wind burial."  One gathers from her poem that burning or burial would have been customary for someone of her station (doesn't the image of the sad smoke rising from Toribeno come up a few times in Genji?). BTW, the "wilds" of the poem is said to refer to Katabira no Tsuji in the west of today's Kyoto - I lived there once and saw lots of scrawny dogs but no corpses. Interesting stuff, but does anyone know where the story and the poem are recorded or attested? It reads like something from Nihon Ryōiki, but that was compiled a bit before her time. 

David Pollack

Melissa McCormick

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Apr 21, 2009, 2:02:18 PM4/21/09
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Dear all,

I don't think the forthcoming book by Karen Gerhart has been mentioned in this thread yet. It deals with precisely these issues.

The Material Culture of Death in Medieval Japan


Best,
Melissa McCormick

Associate Professor
Harvard University
Dept. of East Asian Languages & Civilizations
2 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138


Michelle Li

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Apr 21, 2009, 2:26:22 PM4/21/09
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Karen Gerhart's book looks fascinating and I look forward to reading it. I tried to get a glimpse of the Table of Contents, but couldn't. Would you happen to know if she writes anything on the funerals of children?

Michelle


--- On Tue, 4/21/09, Melissa McCormick <mcc...@fas.harvard.edu> wrote:

> From: Melissa McCormick <mcc...@fas.harvard.edu>
> Subject: [PMJS] Re: Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds, smoke, gravestones

Jacqueline Stone

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Apr 21, 2009, 5:14:15 PM4/21/09
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I would also like to recommend Katsuda Itaru's Shishatachi no chuusei
(Yoshikawa koobunkan, 2003), a very detailed study of changes in disposal
practices over the course of the medeival period.

-Jackie Stone
> ???????????????
> > etc., in the on-line ???? DB, via the Shiryo
> Hensanjo HP
> > (www.hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ships/shipscontroller), came up
> with a couple
> > of hundred references, predominantly in the
> ???????,
> > and ???. Of course, Koji ruien is more likely to
> reflect
> > elite, normative practice than popular practice, but
> it may help.
> >
> > 2. Pictorial evidence:
> >
> > A. The
> ????????.??(???.i.e., early
>
> > 13th c.), depicts a ?? burial procession, with
> the deceased
> > carried in a wooden coffin, grave-diggers at work, and
> the rest of
> > the cemetery. At the left of the scene, crows and dogs
> feed on
> > corpses laid out on the ground on mushiro. There are
> also graveyard
> > scenes in the Shinran shonin eden and numerous other
> emaki and
> > hanging scrolls, including:
> >
> > B. The Ippen hijiri-e (ca. 1300), ??, depicts
> what appears to
> > be the corpse of a samurai floating past Shijo-bashi;
> the funeral
> > procession of Nyoichi ???? (??); the
> wrapping of o-
> > kotsu (??); Ippen's death and grave are
> pictured in ???.
> >
> > C. Gaki zoshi (late 12th c., according to the
> Heibonsha Nihon
> > bijutushi jiten) has meticulous depictions of both
> grave-mounds and
> > of corpses laid out (1) in an open wooden
> coffin--being eaten by a
> > dog--and (2) on mushiro or bare ground. One of the
> corpses (female)
> > on mushiro is posed like the Buddha's nehan.
> >
> > D. To track down more emaki graves, corpses and
> burials, I used the
> > Nihon jomin seikatsu ebiki (5 v. + index, Heibonsha),
> which I've
> > called a 'pictionary.' It's invaluable.
> >
> > E. ?????????. Though extant
> iterations likely date
> > only from the 17th c., many depict a graveyard at the
> intersection
> > between this life and the next, and the iconography is
> decidedly
> > pre-Edo. Ikumi Kaminishi, Explaining Pictures, fig
> 7.2; `Max
> > Moerman, Localizing Paradise, color plate 10; David W.
> Plath,
> > Preaching from Pictures, DVD, available from Asian
> Educational
> > Media Service, www.aems.illinois.edu.
> >
> > Beyond this, although No texts are not, of course,
> 13th c., there
> > are a number of plays where burial sites are
> important. In
> > Sumidagawa, the mother's lost child has died at
> the ferry crossing,
> > where he was buried in a mound--though he was a
> stranger there. I
> > can't recall whether Lady Nijo passes any burials
> on her journey to
> > Kamakura, but it's worth a look.
> >
> > Volume 5 of the Gorai Shigeru chosakushuu (Hozokan,
> 2008) is
> > Nihonjin no shisei-kan to sobo shi, which should be a
> big help, as
> > should:
> >
> >
> ??????????????(??????2006)
> > ?? ?????????(?????,
> 2003)
> > ????????? ????(????,
> 2007)
> >
> ????.??????????????????
>
> > (????, 2002)
> >
> > Interestingly, these are the only books that come up
> on a Todai
> > catalog search using ??.??? as subject

Takeshi Watanabe

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Apr 21, 2009, 6:54:13 PM4/21/09
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One Heian source that has not been mentioned yet is _Eiga monogatari_. The
most notable representation of burial (of many, in fact) can be found in
"Toribeno," which depicts the death of Teishi, Sei Shonagon's patron. As
with Genji, it is tempting in my mind to see both of these major Heian
literary works as dealing with death and the representation of memory. In
the case of Teishi, I think it is significant that she was a marginalized
(comparatively speaking) figure by the time of her death. Hence the choice
of burial in a tamaya (the preservation of her female, impure body) marks
her continued presence in the face of declining fortunes of the Chukanpaku
house.

Takeshi Watanabe


Kate Wildman Nakai

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Apr 21, 2009, 7:28:05 PM4/21/09
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To add a couple of things to Ron Toby's extremely informative post,

On Apr 22, 2009, at 1:14 AM, rptoby wrote:
>
> D. To track down more emaki graves, corpses and burials, I used the
> Nihon jōmin seikatsu ebiki (5 v. + index, Heibonsha), which I've
> called a 'pictionary.' It's invaluable.

To date Kanagawa University has published (as part of a COE project)
an English translation (with a glossary in Chinese and Korean as well)
of the first two volumes of the Seikatsu ebiki. Volume one includes
the section on Gaki zooshi and Kitano tenjin emaki. Unfortunately the
original plan to make the translations available online did not
materialize (I understand, although only from secondhand information,
that Heibonsha would not grant permission). The relevant information
on the printed version is _Multilingual Version of Pictopedia of
Everyday Life in Medieval Japan, compiled from picture scrolls_, The
Kanagawa University 21st Century COE Program Center, "Systematization
of Nonwritten Cultural Materials for the Study of Human Societies, http://www.himoji.jp


>
>
>
>
> Volume 5 of the Gorai Shigeru chosakushuū (Hōzōkan, 2008) is
> Nihonjin no shisei-kan to sōbo shi, which should be a big help, as
> should:
>
> 勝田至『日本中世の墓と葬送』(吉川弘文館、2006)
> ―― 『死者たちの中世』(吉川弘文館, 2003)
> 狭川真一『墓と葬送 の中世』(高志書院, 2007)
> 五味文彦・斎木秀雄編『中世都市鎌倉と死の世界』
> (高志書院, 2002)
>
> Interestingly, these are the only books that come up on a Todai
> catalog search using 中世・葬・史 as subject words. A
> WebcatPlus search yielded over 100 hits, over half of them published
> since 2000; seems as if the medieval 'way of death' has recently
> become a hotter topic than before.

An earlier series, although not exclusively on medieval practices is 葬
送墓制研究集成, 5 vols., published by Meicho Shuppan originally
in 1979. Among the interesting topics taken up in various articles is
the later practice of 両墓制, in which there were two graves, one,
the umebaka or sutebaka, where the body was more or less discarded,
and the other, the mairibaka, where people would make offerings, etc.,
to the dead.
>

Kate Wildman Nakai
-------------------
Please note: Occasionally the Sophia server bounces messages back to
the sender with an "error" or "undeliverable" tag. Should that occur,
please forward the message to kw-n...@moon.dti2.ne.jp. Many apologies
for the inconvenience.
-------------------
Kate Wildman Nakai, Prof. of Japanese History, Sophia University,
and Editor, Monumenta Nipponica
Monumenta Nipponica, Sophia University
7-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8554
Tel: 81-3-3238-3544; Fax: 81-3-3238-3835
E-mail: kw-n...@sophia.ac.jp
Monumenta Nipponica home page: http://monumenta.cc.sophia.ac.jp

Yui Suzuki

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Apr 21, 2009, 7:31:47 PM4/21/09
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As many have already pointed out, burial practices among Heian elites were varied...some were buried while others had their ashes cremated, some were buried at Toribeno, and others were both interred (buried) or their ashes cremated in Amida Halls and Lotus Halls. In any case, it appears that Heian aristocrats practiced both burial and cremation. On the topic of Lotus Halls and Amida Halls becoming sites for permanent burials of Heian aristocrats, one should consult Mimi Yiengpruksawan’s article, "The House of Gold. Fujiwara Kiyohira's Konjikdo" Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 48, Issue 1 (Spring 1993), especially pages 43-46. She has many interesting examples of burial practices among the Heian elite inside or underneath these halls. Takeshi Watanabe mentioned tamaya…Yiengrpuksawan also mentions these buildings known as tamadono or tamaya which were small wooden structures built on the periphery of a temple compound used for both temporary and permanent burials.  Both the corpses and the ashes of the person were interred underneath the hall’s altar (p. 43). In addition, this article discusses three Northern Fujiwara leaders (Fujiwara Kiyohara, Motohira and Hidehira) and their mummified bodies in caskets inside the main altar in the Konjikido.

 

By the way, on the general topic of medieval burials practices, years ago there was a similar series of discussions (11/27/2001 - 11/30/2001) contributed by many members. The title of the thread was "Death and Burial in Pre-1600 Kyoto." I'm not sure if one can access this thread since it is so old from our PMJS website (I tried the search but it didn't work) but those discussions were very helpful.

 

 

Yui Suzuki

 

***************************************
Yui Suzuki
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Art History and Archaeology
4212 Art/Sociology Bldg.
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
Tel. (301)405-1488



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Matthew Stavros

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Apr 21, 2009, 8:01:20 PM4/21/09
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Dear All,

Here is the link to the 2001 PMJS discussion on death mentioned by Yui.

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/557949/death.html

I'm surprised the original author didn't think of posting this first. Thanks Yui.

Matthew Stavros
www.mstavros.com
www.pmjs.org

[The FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (made law on 9 July 2008) legalizes warrantless wiretaps on US citizens. Email sent to or from this account (mstavros) may be under surveillance.]


Susan Matisoff

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Apr 21, 2009, 8:25:17 PM4/21/09
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On the matter of cremation vs. burial, the late medieval oral narrative Oguri, which probably originated roughly in the 15th century and is first captured in print as an early 17th century sekkyou-bushi text, gives evidence of lingering popular anxiety about appropriate methods of disposing of the dead.  Oguri and ten of his  followers are poisoned.  Oguri is buried. The others are cremated.  Emma, judging them in the underworld, is able to return Oguri to life, since his body “still exists”, but cannot do the same for his cremated retainers.  This comment isn’t meant to reflect on historical realities in the 12th century, or on elite practices, but I do think it shows us something about “folk” attitudes.  

Susan Matisoff

Amos, Timothy David

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Apr 21, 2009, 10:29:51 PM4/21/09
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On a related note, a while back I came across a reference to Onbō 隠亡 in Yanagita Kunio’s work. This was apparently an appellation given to people who looked after the cremation and burial of corpses and guarded graveyards. Yanagita wrote that he believed the original characters were probably 御坊 but were also rendered as 隠坊, 隠墓, 熅房 and 煙亡 (Vol. 9: 377). Yanagita also adds that the onbō of the western part of Iga were known as haji (土師). I know there has been a bit of research on these groups recently in early modern circles but I am just wondering how far back these groups go?

 

Timothy Amos

Department of Japanese Studies

National University of Singapore

 

 


From: pm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:pm...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Noel Pinnington
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11:51 AM
To: pm...@googlegroups.com
Subject: [PMJS] Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds, smoke, gravestones

 

Dear PMJS members,

Greve Gabi

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Apr 21, 2009, 10:45:38 PM4/21/09
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>
>
>
> On a related note, a while back I came across a reference to Onbō 隠亡 in
> Yanagita Kunio’s work. This was apparently an appellation given to people
> who looked after the cremation and burial of corpses and guarded graveyards.
> Yanagita wrote that he believed the original characters were probably 御坊 but
> were also rendered as 隠坊, 隠墓, 熅房 and 煙亡 (Vol. 9: 377). Yanagita also adds
> that the onbō of the western part of Iga were known as haji (土師). I know
> there has been a bit of research on these groups recently in early modern
> circles but I am just wondering how far back these groups go?

>
> Timothy Amos
>
> Department of Japanese Studies
>
> National University of Singapore
>

This comes to mind

Here is a haiku by Issa about the "omboo"

隠坊が門もそよそよ青柳ぞ
ombô ga kado mo soyo-soyo ao yagi zo

at the cemetery guard's
gate too...
a green willow rustles

The person referred to in this haiku (ombô) is either a cemetery guard
or a crematory worker.

David Lanoue
http://haikuguy.com/issa/search.php?japanese=&romaji=&year=1816


隠坊(おんぼう)がけぶりも御代(みよ)の青田哉
「隠坊」は「墓守」または「死骸を焼く職の人」

http://www.janis.or.jp/users/kyodoshi/issaku-08.htm

Just for the pleasure of it.
Gabi

Richard L. Wilson

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Apr 21, 2009, 10:52:57 PM4/21/09
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Dear All,

Thanks for this informative thread. The presence of some ancient-era remains (yokoana kofun) in our campus area once prompted me to inquire into early historical burials:

Kofun--Simple burial of the body (土葬 dosô) and exposure to the elements (fûsô 風葬) was the common method of Kofun-era burial. 

Post-Kofun--The practice of cremation is described in the History of the Latter Han (後漢書). But it failed to take on in China but was transmitted to Three Kingdoms Korea; the practice is said to have transmitted from Silla to Japan by via the Hosso sect. The Taika reforms of 646 included a hakusôrei (薄葬冷), a sumptuary law urging frugal burials, which encouraged the spread of cremation into the provinces. The Zoku nihongi notes the cremation of Michiaki (道昭) in 700 and there is an example of the Kinai dated tomb of Fumine-maro with cremated remains with an epitaph of 707. This documents the beginning of the cremation custom. However the imperial household took the lead with the cremation of Jito Taijo tenno in 703. Cremation burials are marked archeologically the presence of a cinerary urn 骨蔵器, principally of Haji or Sue ware but sometimes glass, gilt bronze, or lacquer (illustration in image depot).

Heain to Kamakura--The pre-Heian practices apparently did not stress a link between funeral practices and Buddhism. The emphasis rather was to locate the grave outside of the urban space. A second major phase, which emphasizes the memorial service, was formed under the influence of Pure Land Buddhism, from the Heian to Kamakura. Temples were constructed together with the grave. An early example is the Jomyoji 浄妙寺 at the Northern Fujiwara tomb in Uji Kohata erected by Fujiwara Michinaga.

Kamakura--Archaeology indeed suggests that cremation was out of reach for most commoners. A famous example is the body disposal site at Yuigahama beach in Kamakura (Kamakura-Nanbokucho?), excavated about a decade ago, where thousands of bodies were dumped. Many of the skeletons showed evidence of binding of feet and hands for transport via carry-pole--apparently the bodies were disposed with limbs still bound. Animals remains were found together with the humans. Burial goods were conspicuously absent save a few earthenware dishes. The meaning of the site is complicated by more recent research showing that a number of the skulls had been lacerated. There are also individual burial units at the site. After visiting the site with my ICU students one cold spring morning, all of them decided to study art rather archaeology!

Richard L. Wilson
ICU




William Wetherall

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Apr 22, 2009, 2:31:11 AM4/22/09
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Of possible interest to some participants in this thread is the following article, which I wrote two decades ago. The article reflects both my life at the time as a journalist, and my personal and academic interest in death and burial, a holdover from my dissertation on following-in-death in early Japan.

I would phrase some things differently today, and no doubt some "facts" would not withstand closer scrutiny. However, the article still serves as a general overview from early times up to Hirohito's demise and burial, which served as a hook for what otherwise would not have been published in a general news weekly. To some extent it also reflects my view, much stronger today, that diversity in local burial practices across the country, and significant variation even within some sizable localities, will be the rule rather than the exception, especially in early times, but even today -- that you don't begin to see a truly strong movement toward the definition of a "national norm" in, say, cremation and the death industry generally, until after the start of the nation in 1868, with the nationalization of provinces and subsequent legal, bureaucratic, industrial, commercial, and social homogenization of the growing empire.

A couple of notes at the end express some personal and current thoughts.

A more recent article in English of considerable interest, focusing on Meiji, is Andrew Bernstein, Fire and Earth: The Forging of Modern Cremation in Meiji Japan, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 27, Numbers 3-4, 2000, pages 297-334.

Bill Wetherall

######################################################

Rites of passage
History of funeral practices intertwined with religion
By William Wetherall

A version of this article appeared in
Far Eastern Economic Review
143(11), 16 March 1989, pages 67, 70

Cremation has been a bone of contention in the Christian world since Roman times. In Japan, too, the funeral pyre has long inspired religious and political conflict. Japan's monarchs have not escaped the debate, and the history of their funeral rites illustrates how the monarchy has been both an agent of social change and a tool of conservatism.

Buddhism, which favours cremation, arrived in Japan in the 6th century. Cremation began to replace burial by the 7th century, and it was adopted for use in the funerals of progressive monarchs at the start of the 8th century. Since then, Shinto purists have mounted two anti-cremation campaigns, both at peaks of xenophobia in the 17th and 10th centuries.

It was during the 8th century, when Japan's most influential rulers were women, that Buddhism came to replace Shinto as the religion of the rulers. The first sovereign to be cremated was Empress Jito, who reigned from 686 to 697 and died in January 703. Contemporary records state that when Jito was cremated the following year her ashes were placed in the tomb of her husband, Emperor Tenmu, who had died in 686. The delay may have been caused by a dispute over burial methods.

When the Tenmu-Jito mausoleum was pillaged in 1235, a silver urn which is thought to have contained Jito's relics was found on a road where the looters had thrown it away. The urn is surmised to have been in a gilt bronze bowl which had been placed at the end of Tenmu's dry-lacquer coffin.

SEE NOTE A

Japan's monarchs continued to be cremated until the death of Emperor Gokomyo in -- 1654. Shinto nationalists disliked cremation, not only because it was an alien practice, but because they shared the Confucianist belief that disfiguring the body is cruel. Although the imperial family was persuaded to end its 1,000-year practice of cremation in favour of interment, all cremation rites except the actual lighting of the pyre continued down to the funeral of Emperor Ninko in 1846.

In the middle of the 19th century, Japan faced the possibility of colonialisation if the politically divided nation failed to unify. The civil warring was resolved in favour of Shinto royalists who restored nominal power to the emperor and tried to nationalise as many Shinto traditions as possible.

The 1867 funeral of Emperor Komei, Ninko's son and Emperor Meiji's father, provided Japan's new leaders with an opportunity to purge all traces of Buddhism from imperial funerals and return to the practice of interring the coffin in large mounds or tumuli (though these were smaller than the tumuli built before Buddhism reached Japan).

In 1873, the government prohibited cremation as part of its bid to establish Shinto as the national religion and drive out Buddhism. But the anti-cremation law was abrogated only two years later when people in crowded cities such as Tokyo and Osaka made it clear that they had no place to bury their dead. Some families had to abandon the bodies of their dead in fields. Bodies sent back to home villages for burial would putrefy before they arrived.

Sobered by such threats to public order, sanitation and propriety, the Meiji government began to promote cremation as the most economical and practical means of disposal. Although once an upper-class practice, cremation became cheaper than interment as modern incineration methods were introduced from Europe and improved in Japan. The ashes of an entire family could be kept in a burial crypt requiring only as much land as was needed to inter a single person; and the ashes could be moved with the family, or divided if the family branched.

National and local laws were passed to control burial practices for reasons of public health. The government ordered that the bodies of those who had died of infectious diseases be cremated, and so cremation spread even to rural areas where burial had been customary. Still, it took 60 years for Japan's cremation rate to double from 26.5 percent in 1896 to 54 percent in 1955. But it reached 79 percent by 1970, and in 1987 it was 95.7 percent.

SEE NOTE B

During Japan's tumultuous history, the imperial family lost track of many of its graves. Most of the ancient burial mounds, some of them comparable in size to the pyramids in Egypt, have remained conspicuous landmarks. But the identities of the people interred in the tumuli that predate reliable records is a matter of considerable academic debate.

When imperial authority was restored in the 1860s, the government scampered all over the country and "identified" the tombs of all past (including many legendary) monarchs and important princes. It then compiled an official directory of imperial family mortuary monuments that the Imperial Household Agency considers accurate.

All the monuments in the directory are considered the property of the imperial family. At public expense, the government's Imperial Household Agency maintains more than 890 monuments at more than 450 sites -- all of which are off limits to archaeologists, who would like to explore at least the oldest, pre-6th century tombs to help answer questions about the imperial family's continental, particularly Korean, roots.

The Imperial Household Agency abhors the thought of disturbing sacred imperial relics for the sake of historical truth. How would you feel, it asks, if someone started digging up your relatives? But the government failed to protect the sanctity of common tombs when it appropriated property for the Musashi Imperial Cemetery, in Hachioji city near Tokyo, where Emperor Taisho was buried in 1926, and where his son the late Emperor Hirohito was buried last month.

Shortly before Taisho's burial, the Imperial Household ordered the relocation of some 587 graves associated with two temples and six private cemeteries within the new imperial compound. The graves were seen as polluting earth that had to be physically as well as ritually pure in order to receive the deceased emperor's body.

More than half of Japan's 124 deceased monarchs have been cremated. Even today, all members of the imperial family, except the emperor and his empress, are cremated. "There is simply not enough room to inter the others," an Imperial Household Agency official told the Review.

No laws govern the burial of imperial family members who are buried on imperial property. And so the agency did not apply to Hachioji city for permission to bury Hirohito in the Musashi Imperial Cemetery. Hachioji generally prohibits interment, but a city official said that the city does not expect the Imperial Household Agency to apply for a burial permit since the agency can do what it pleases on its own land.

The agency is not required by law to report births and deaths of imperial family members to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Hence, Japan's official vital statistics, as reported to the World Health Organisation, do not include the imperial family.

NOTES

NOTE A -- In the late 1940s my maternal grandparents bought a double plot in a graveyard in Lewiston Idaho when they learned my grandfather was dying of cancer. He was buried in a coffin as planned. My grandmother oulived him over three decades. In her later years she sold her half of the plot and instructed my mother to cremate her and deposit her ashes in grandpa's plot. Today an urn with her ashes sits on his coffin. My mother herself was cremated -- something no one of her place and time grew up expecting. When she was a girl, her family had its own farmland and a family plot in a graveyard shared by other homesteaders. Things changed when her parents left their farms and the farms themselves were consolidated or disappeared. Codes placed more restrictions on where people could bury their dead. The scattering of families and simple economics also began to trump custom and religion.

NOTE B -- At the time I wrote this, the cremation rate in Ibaraki prefecture had the lowest rate in Japan by far -- and truly stood out in comparison with its Kanto neighbors. The effort to promote cremation required the building of more crematoriums, which always met with not-in-my-backyard protests. Also at play were strong local family preferences for burial. A significant percentage of the population still consisted of families which had farm land on which to bury bodies, sometimes in accordance with, sometimes contravening, burial ordinances. Every time I find myself in an Ibaraki taxi I bother the driver to death with questions about local burial practices. Drivers are likely to be sons of local farm families, and as such it is fairly easy to drag out burial versus cremation stories. No stories yet of abandonment, though. Body abandonment would have been a last resort of the poor, isolated, and unlanded, not to mention criminal elements, in earlier times. Today
people are more likely to abandon cremains on trains, while murderers are constantly innovating new ways to dispose of bodies.

Elizabeth Tinsley

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Apr 22, 2009, 8:04:59 AM4/22/09
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Two more books that may be useful for this subject are:

細川涼一『死と境界の中世史』洋泉社1997
細川涼一編『三昧聖の研究』碩文社2001

The second deals with Onbō and Sanmaihijiri, types of workers/guards at burial sites and cremations.

Elizabeth Tinsley


Subject: [PMJS] Re: Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds, smoke, gravestones
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 10:29:51 +0800
From: jps...@nus.edu.sg
To: pm...@googlegroups.com

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Robert Borgen

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Apr 22, 2009, 8:27:12 AM4/22/09
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As for the Haji, they go back quite a ways.  I believe you can find an article on them that was published in Monumenta Nipponica sometime in the 1970's, as I recall.  Although it is surely out of date by now, some of the information in it may still be of interest.

Robert Borgen

Haruko Wakabayashi

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Apr 22, 2009, 9:47:39 AM4/22/09
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Thanks, all for such a stimulating discussion on a very interesting topic.
May I introduce an article in the book that Ron Toby has already mentioned:
One of my former colleagues, 岡 陽一郎, wrote a chapter titled 都市のにおい、浜のにおいin 五味文彦・斎木秀雄編『中世都市鎌倉と死の世界』(高志書院, 2002).  He's done some archaeological research on Kamakura, and found that bodies were often disposed along the beaches. He gave a talk some years ago at a symposium at shiryo hensanjo that I believe some of you attended, and showed lots of interesting slides.  There, he also urged us to imagine what it would have smelled like in those cities of medieval Japan....
 
Haruko Wakabayashi

Michelle Li

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Apr 22, 2009, 12:20:34 PM4/22/09
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I can see one of the material appeals of having people aim for birth after death in the Pure Land since the bodies of ojonin are said to remain beautifully fragrant . . . .


--- On Wed, 4/22/09, Haruko Wakabayashi <wakab...@gmail.com> wrote:

David Pollack

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Apr 22, 2009, 1:05:29 PM4/22/09
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The idea that Japan's beaches were historically regarded as disposal
sites for dead bodies seems to shed new cultural light on what I often
felt to be their curious neglect - at least when I used to visit them
regularly in days of yore only to find them covered in trash. Their
regular association with the miserable lives of shiokumi-musume, whose
noxiously smokey fires may not have been fueled by seaweed alone,
probably didn't help either. Keburi, whether from Toribeyama or from
Suma, seems to have elicited much the same emotions.

David Pollack

Jacqueline Stone

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Apr 22, 2009, 3:06:52 PM4/22/09
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Re Michelle Li's point about the bodies of ojonin not decaying and even
exuding sweet fragrance: On that topic (with apologies for being
self-referential), please see my "Dying Breath: Deathbed Rites and Death
Pollution in Early Medieval Japan," in _Heroes and Saints: The Moment of
Death in Cross-cultural Perspectives_, ed. Phyllis Granoff Koichi Shinohara
(Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), 173-246, as well as the
Japanese scholarship cited therein.

Thanks to everyone for the many valuable sources and observations in this
thread!

-Jackie Stone

-----Original Message-----
From: pm...@googlegroups.com [mailto:pm...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of
Michelle Li
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 12:21 PM
To: pm...@googlegroups.com
Subject: [PMJS] Re: Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds,
smoke, gravestones



I can see one of the material appeals of having people aim for birth after
death in the Pure Land since the bodies of ojonin are said to remain
beautifully fragrant . . . .


--- On Wed, 4/22/09, Haruko Wakabayashi <wakab...@gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Haruko Wakabayashi <wakab...@gmail.com>
> Subject: [PMJS] Re: Thirteenth century burials, coffins, urns, mounds,
> smoke, gravestones
> To: pm...@googlegroups.com
> Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 6:47 AM Thanks, all for such a
> stimulating discussion on a very interesting topic.
> May I introduce an article in the book that Ron Toby has already
> mentioned:
> One of my former colleagues, ? ???, wrote a chapter titled
> ????????????in ????.??????????????????(????, 2002). He's done some

robin d. gill

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Apr 22, 2009, 5:55:47 PM4/22/09
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Though knowing about saints smelling good in Europe and Japan, I had not known of the actually sweet-smelling mummies and the Pure Land connection. Knowing little about burial customs, I have stayed out of this discussion, but I wanted to note that my reading of the following poem by Issa (miira to mo naritagarite ya hatsuhinode) on turning 50 or 51 has just gained something by what Li and Stone just wrote. 
みいらともなりたがりてやはつ日の出 一茶
 
new year wish
 
the sun rises
and i would become
a mummy!
 
It is in my book of New Year (shinnenbu) haiku because I like it even though I was not really sure what it meant.  Now, I can think:  1) Ah, Pure Land mummy, so he is both wanting to live AND to hurry up and get translated West to Paradise now his first 50yrs is complete; and 2) Issa had lots of fart poems in the winter -- of a  10-fart long night or going out ten times to "throw farts away" and mixing his farts with plum scent, etc. and that sweet-smelling dry mummy . . .
 
So, your details on burial customs help us understand broader literature -- by all means keep digging!
 
敬愚
--
"Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!"

Michelle Li

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Apr 23, 2009, 2:42:56 AM4/23/09
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I wouldn't think of the bodies of ojonin as mummies because they aren't embalmed. Also, I can't help thinking of Egypt.
Am I missing something?
Michelle


--- On Wed, 4/22/09, robin d. gill <robin...@gmail.com> wrote:

Noel Pinnington

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Apr 23, 2009, 2:51:13 AM4/23/09