Watching Women Fall in Japanese Hell Painting: Defining Sins and Punishments Specific to Women between the Twelfth and Sixteenth Centuries

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 April, 2015
6:00pm BST

Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4EH


Caroline Hirasawa (Associate Professor of Japanese Art History, Sophia University)

About the Talk

Medieval Japanese paintings of women suffering in hell clearly illustrate contemporary conceptions of and concerns about female sin and salvation. This talk will closely examine portrayals of women in influential or representative examples of hell imagery that survive from the late Heian through the Muromachi periods in order to track how these images reflect changes in audience over time. The talk will demonstrate that, toward the end of the medieval period, female sin had increasingly become associated with the female body and with what were regarded as the reproductive responsibilities of women.

About the Speaker

Caroline Hirasawa is Associate Professor of Japanese Art History at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Her publications focus on medieval and early-modern Japanese hell painting, pilgrimage mandalas, and images of salvation. Her book Hell-bent for Heaven in Tateyama mandara: Painting and Religious Practice at a Japanese Mountain (Brill, 2013) treats the history, literature, and images of a cult that developed around Tateyama mountain (Toyama prefecture) in which the volcanic landscape was seen as a portal to hell and paradise.

Where the Tateyama project examined perceptions of mountains as the Other World, a new book project, tentatively entitled Negotiating with Dragons, considers the Other World that was conceived as lying beneath the sea, which is often presented in stories and images as a kingdom of dragons. This research examines various medieval paintings and objects, including portrayals of hell and the dragon palace in a set of hanging scrolls belonging to the temple Shidoji (Kagawa prefecture).

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.