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Beyond Enemy and Friend? A Multitude of Views of Life and Death Centering on the ‘Mongolian Gravestone’

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Focusing on a thirteenth century ‘Mongolian gravestone’ in the city of Sendai, Japan, this article reexamines ‘the Mongolian invasions’ twice launched by Khubilai Khan. It is above all an examination of the origin, transformation, and political and religious symbolism of, and the sharply different attitudes towards the ‘Mongolian gravestone’. It studies how Hojo Tokimune, a regent of the Kamakura Shogunate, asked the Chinese Zen master Wuxue Zuyuan to pray for the repose of the souls of the Japanese and Mongol Yuan soldiers killed in the invasions, combining Japanese Shinto traditions with the Buddhist notion of onshin byodo, that is, treating hate and affection alike. It describes the process whereby the Mongolian gravestone was rediscovered and preserved in the eighteenth century, how it gained a dramatic political significance during the Second World War as it was venerated and enshrined by Prince Demchugdonrob, a descendant of Khubilai Khan, and how it was again commemorated by citizens of Sendai after the war. The paper aims not just to illuminate the paradoxical Japanese, Mongolian and Chinese views of life and death but to shed light on the religious background of the contemporary Japanese- Chinese- Korean wrangle over the Yasukuni shrine.


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