For mothers and sisters: care of the reproductive female body in the medico-ritual world of early and medieval Japan
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Universidad de Granada
IshinpoBudismoObstetriciaSalvaciónMujeresJapón medievalBuddhismObstetricsSalvationWomenMedieval Japan
TripletT, K. «For Mothers and Sisters : Care of the Reproductive Female Body in the Medico-Ritual World of Early and Medieval Japan». Dynamis: Acta Hispanica Ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam, Vol. 34, Núm. 2, 1, p. 337-56. [http://dx.doi.org/10.4321/S0211-95362014000200004]
While married female members of the Japanese aristocracy followed the ideal of bearing children, female Buddhist novices and ordained women, often belonging to the aristocracy themselves, had to abstain from sexual activity and reproduction in accordance with the ordination rules. Infertility was considered with disdain by the first group, whereas not bearing children was the utmost expression of leading a virtuous life for the second group. However, both groups were concerned with keeping their physical bodies healthy: some to become mothers, the others to live as nuns or religious sisters. Focusing on the early medieval period, this paper examines various sources to illuminate the ways in which women were cared for and the kind of views and ideas that informed this care. Instead of looking at the ancient methods of treatment through a modern «scientific» lens and sorting them into «proto-scientific» and «superstitious» categories, medico-ritual and religious views on the female body are explored as facets of the worldview prevalent in the period under consideration. Special attention is paid to relevant chapters of the first medical work produced in Japan, the Ishinpō, compiled by a court physician, Tanba no Yasuyori, in the late 10th century CE. The investigation of other sources, such as Buddhist legends and doctrinal texts, suggests that women were recommended to seek to overcome their femaleness altogether by transforming their female bodies into male bodies in order to reach ultimate «healing» in terms of salvation. In lay circles, however, the Buddhist divinities and other powerful deities were worshipped to ensure this-worldly «healing» in terms of successful procreation and continuation of the family line.