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Peasants as Clients and Patrons of Buddhism in Early Modern Village Life

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Abstract

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In studies of early modern Buddhist social history, clerical-lay relations that center on the certification of danka (support families) are a major topic. The system of certification operated with general support from the Tokugawa bakufu and the many daimyo houses and it served as a means for keeping population records, but there is a long-standing proclivity among scholars to assess the danka system in negative terms. This assessment rests on examples of clerics who abused their position to extract wealth from lay families who were forced into being temple clients.This research paper draws upon a detailed clerical diary from a temple in Saitama and scholarship that provides data on phenomena such as the growth of empty (mujū 無住) temples to argue that peasants were not mere objects of subordination but also active agents with patronal authority who could and did exert influence over clerical/temple relations with the laity in rural villages.

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