Pamela Winfield Presents Research on Zen Material Culture at the Association of Asian Studies, Japan Educational Exchange Foundation

Associate Professor of Religous Studies Pamela Winfield convened a panel on "Zen Matters" and presented a paper on "Materializing the Zen Monastery" at the annual national conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Seattle, WA on April 1, 2016.    

Her paper investigates Zen Master Dogen’s (1200-1253) rhetorical and material strategies for fundraising and establishing the first Soto Zen monastery in Japan in 1233.  It first argues that Dogen invokes the Chinese material theory of the five phases (Earth, Water, Fire, Wood, Metal), yin-yang theory, and fengshui geomancy to marshal the necessary resources for building a new kind of Zen monastery in Japan.  It then demonstrates that Dogen invokes Chinese contract pledges (fu) to seal the deal with his potential patrons in Kyoto.  It finally reflects on Dogen’s favored catch-phrase of “grasses and trees” (somoku),  which indicates both non-human and human elements in the monastery that preach the dharma by their very nature.   A previous version of this paper was presented in Chicago before the board of the Kobe College Corporation/Japan Educational Exchange (KCC/JEE) Foundation on March 11, 2016.