The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha

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Monastic Warriors and Sohei in Japanese History by Mikael S. Adolphson
Japan's monastic warriors have fared poorly in comparison to the samurai, both in terms of historical reputation and representations in popular culture. Often maligned and criticized for their involvement in politics and other secular matters, they have been seen as figures separate from the larger military class. However, as Mikael Adolphson reveals in his comprehensive and authoritative examination of the social origins of the monastic forces, political conditions, and warfare practices of the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333) eras, these "monk-warriors"(sohei) were in reality inseparable from the warrior class. Their negative image, Adolphson argues, is a construct that grew out of artistic sources critical of the established temples from the fourteenth century on.

Paperback, 224 Pages. February 2007

Mikael S. Adolphson is associate professor of Japanese history in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University.