THE DEIFIC OTHER AND THE POWER OF CHIGO IN MEDIEVAL JAPANESE CHIGO MONOGATARI
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis thesis analyzes the literary portrayal of chigo, young acolytes in medieval Japan (1185-1333) who entered a contractionary relationship with Buddhist institutions to provide various (including sexual) services to their master monk in exchange for social standing, education, and accommodations. Modern scholarship has often forced chigo into the role of the victim, claiming that they were taken advantage of and subjected to an asymmetrical abuse of power by their master monks. In this thesis, I explore the depiction of chigo in two Muromachi Era (1336-1573) chigo monogatari (tales of chigo): Aki no yo no nagamonogarati (A Long Tale for an Autumn Night) and Genmu monogatari (The Tale of Genmu) to argue that literary chigo exerted power through their weaponization of vulnerability and ultimate transformation into a bodhisattva, despite the harsh circumstances they may have faced within the monastic system. I argue that the depiction of a chigo’s characteristic ambiguous body and transience in each tale designate chigo as “Other.” Then, through exposure to violence which results in the chigo’s death, the chigo transforms into the “Deific Other,” a deity with power over fate itself. In this way, the literary chigo operates as a central figure of not only the medieval texts, but also of the monastic community itself.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies