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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The history of charitable giving along the Shikoku pilgrimage route Moreton, David C.


The following thesis examines the extensive history of charitable giving along the eighty-eight temple pilgrimage route around the island of Shikoku, Japan. The founder of this route, believed by common tradition, is Kukai, (posthumous name, Kobo Daishi 774-835), who established the Shingon sect in Japan, emphasizing that all people could achieve the 'attainment of Buddhahood in this life' (sokushin jobutsu). To achieve this Buddhahood, one must participate in the Six Perfections, the first being, 'to give', that is through charitable giving. Since the time of Kobo Daishi, there has been a custom of giving to religious figures such as monks or pilgrims in Japan. The Shikoku pilgrimage, unlike other pilgrimage routes, offers a unique perspective for a study in charitable giving for at least two reasons. First, Kobo Daishi has traditionally held a strong influence on the people who have participated as donors of charity, especially on the local people within Shikoku. Secondly, the isolation of Shikoku has allowed this pilgrimage route to preserve its original religious nature for much longer than other areas. As a result, the custom of giving remains unusually prevalent to this day. Through the use of numerous primary sources written by both Japanese and foreign authors who offer their firsthand accounts of charitable giving, from the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) until the mid-twentieth century, I will argue that this custom of giving along the Shikoku route was a wide spread phenomenon that was evident in a variety of forms. It will become evident that the concept of giving in Shikoku has had a strong tie with religion, specifically with the teachings and legends of Kobo Daishi. To provide evidence for this, and to examine other reasons for people's participation in charitable giving, I will explore the origins of this custom in Japan, explain the motives for giving, and highlight the numerous ways in which people throughout Japan have provided charity to Shikoku pilgrims for such an extensive period of time.

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