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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tōkeiji's business : the agency of nuns in the early modern period Lee, Nicolette


This thesis explores the agency of nuns at elite convents by focusing on how they successfully acted within the constraints of social regulations during the early modern period. I use agency as a tool to examine issues of representation and authority of the nuns in response to arguments that stress nuns are marginalized in the broader study of Japanese Buddhism. This thesis explores that the study of nuns is not about uncovering marginalized representations, but evaluating the agency and authority of nuns as relative to their contemporaries, such as other monks and public authorities. I primarily focus on Tōkeiji, the famous divorce temple (enkiridera 縁切寺), supplemented by examples from imperial convents (bikuni gosho 比丘尼御所) of the early modern period. Chapter 1 focuses on divorce as a pivotal issue to discuss agency, representation, and authority of the wife who requested divorce and of the abbess who guaranteed the divorce by temple code law. Chapter 2 reexamines the theoretical and actual the power relations within the personnel structure especially in regard to the temple hierarchy. Chapter 3 reviews the significant connection between financial management and influential familial patrons. Chapter 4 explores the multifaceted nature of the temple. I reach the conclusion that a different perspective on approaching the study of nuns at elite convents enables us to move away from the repetitive debate on whether nuns are considered independent. Instead, the approach to assess how the nuns used their resources in their network as ritual specialists, politicians, and businesspeople presents a comprehensive examination of an Edo period nun.

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada