Buddhist Materiality

9780804756822: Hardback
Release Date: 15th November 2007

Dimensions: 155 x 235

Number of Pages: 408

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Asian Religions and Cultures

Stanford University Press

Buddhist Materiality

A Cultural History of Objects in Japanese Buddhism

This innovative book shows that throughout its history, contrary to received assumptions, Buddhism developed a sophisticated philosophy of materiality—one that allowed human beings to give shape and expression to their deepest religious and spiritual ideas.
Hardback / £60.00

Throughout its history, Buddhism has developed a sophisticated philosophy of materiality, addressing the status of material objects and their role in the quest for salvation. This is an innovative book that addresses the ways in which Buddhism has conceived of, and dealt with, material objects ranging from the environment to everyday tools, ritual implements, icons, and sacred texts. Contrary to received assumptions, careful reading of original sources and study of ritual practices show that in Buddhism the realm of materiality is not simply an obstacle for spiritual pursuits but also a space for interplay in which human beings can give shape and expression to their deepest religious and spiritual ideas.

Fabio Rambelli is Professor of Japanese Religions and Cultural History and International Shinto Foundation Chair of Shinto Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

"...the reader's effort will be amply rewarded with insightful analysis of fascinating materials that have yet to receive much scholarly attention. Specialists in Buddhist studies, Japanese religions, and material culture will likely get the most out of this book, but I would also enthusiastically recommend it to anyone interested in closely documented and theoretically sophisticated examination of the interrelations between religion, culture, society, politics, and the material objects that populate people's lives."

Stuart H. Young
Religious Studies Review

"Rambelli displays considerable erudition, shows great familiarity with primary texts, and presents much material not otherwise available to readers of English. Especially valuable are his discussions of the Japanese understandings of 'nature' (which term he unpacks at length), myths and rituals that sacralize tools and professions, and rituals of thanking (and retiring) tools. More particularly, the author argues convincingly that the Buddhist origins of such attitudes and practices have been undervalued by past scholarship."


"Rambelli has written an altogether seminal study of East Asian Buddhist material culture and its importance to especially Japan's social worlds. This is the stuff of life, and Rambelli handles it expertly."

Pamela Winfield
H-Net Reviews.

"Rambelli's book offers us new lenses to see what had been hidden in plain sight."

Monumenta Nipponica

"Rambelli's Buddhist Materiality will exert long-lasting influence in a number of fields, including Buddhist studies, Japanese religions, Japanese history, and material culture studies."

Lori Meeks
The Journal of Religion

"The broad and ambitious scope of this study warrants praise...This is an extraordinary volume whose impact will be felt for some time."

James L. Ford
Journal of Japanese Studies.

"Buddhist Materiality, a powerful study in seven chapters....[The book] represents a provocative and important contribution to the field of Japanese studies, Buddhist studies and material religion."

Barbara Ambros
Material Religion.