Kyushu University Academic Staff Educational and Research Activities Database
List of Presentations
Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem Last modified date:2019.07.04

Associate Professor / International Master's Program (IMAP) and International Doctorate (IDOC) in Japanese Humanities / Department of Philosophy / Faculty of Humanities


Presentations
1. Ellen Van Goethem, The Others Within: Architecture, Activism, and Advertising at Heian Jingu, Workshop “Thank God We’re Not Like Them”: The Global Dimensions of Religious Othering, 2019.02.
2. Ellen Van Goethem, Commemoration and Deification: The Creation of Heian Jingū, UCSB, East Asia Center, 2019.02.
3. Ellen Van Goethem, Monument, Shrine, Power Spot: Heian Jingū’s Multi-Layered Signification, Columbia University, Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, 2018.11, In 1895, Heian Jingū was festively inaugurated as a testimony to Kyoto’s bygone days as the nation’s capital. A close look at its founding story reveals a complex narrative that touches not only on doctrinal issues, but also on material aspects. Moreover, it helps explain how a major imperial shrine (kanpei taisha) in the emerging Japanese nation state could be so replete with Chinese symbolism and why in later years at least one of its designers expressed great disappointment at the end result. Finally, it appears that today exactly those China-derived elements play a crucial role in Heian jingū’s popularity..
4. Ellen Van Goethem, Workshop ‘Cosmos, Ethos, Episteme’, Workshop ‘Cosmos, Ethos, Episteme’, 2018.06.
5. Ellen Van Goethem, Heian Jingū: Shinto Shrine and/or Yellow Dragon of the Center, Interdisciplinary Colloquium, Kyushu University, 2017.10, In 1895, a new Shinto shrine was festively inaugurated in Kyoto; merging various architectural styles, Heian jingū was intended as a testimony to Kyoto’s bygone days as the nation’s capital. Yet in spite of its grandeur, the shrine’s founding is usually explained in very simple terms. It was established to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the move to the Heian capital and was, therefore, dedicated to the city’s founder, Emperor Kanmu (r.781–806), and modeled after part of his palace compound.
A closer look at the shrine’s founding story, however, reveals a much more complex narrative that illustrates the fits and starts of State Shinto in the mid-Meiji period (1868–1912). Moreover, unraveling Heian jingū’s founding explains how a major imperial shrine (kanpei taisha) in the emerging Japanese nation state could be so replete with Chinese symbolism. Finally, it appears that today exactly those China-derived elements—and their related beliefs and practices—form the core of Heian jingū’s self-portrayal and play a crucial role in its current popularity..
6. Ellen Van Goethem, Heian Jingū: A "Traditional" Shrine in a "Foreign" Guise, 15th European Association for Japanese Studies (EAJS) International Conference, 2017.08, The founding of Heian jingū in 1895 is usually explained in very simple terms; it was established to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the move to the Heian capital and was, therefore, dedicated to the city's founder, Emperor Kanmu (r.781-806). A closer look at the shrine's founding story reveals a much more complex narrative that illustrates the fits and starts of State Shinto in the first decades of the Meiji period.As such, this paper touches not only on doctrinal issues such as the deification of past emperors, but also on material aspects such as the Meiji government's creation of a blueprint for newly erected shrines. Moreover, tracing Heian jingū's founding story might help explain how a major imperial shrine (kanpei taisha) can be so replete with Chinese symbolism and why in later years at least one of its designers expressed great disappointment at the end result.The paper will conclude by arguing that exactly these China-derived elements-and their related beliefs and practices-currently form the core of Heian jingū's self-portrayal and play a crucial role in its continued popularity..
7. Ellen Van Goethem, Guardians of Kyoto: Shinto Shrines as Manifestations of the Directional Deities, Association for Asian Studies, 2017.03, This paper traces the history of five Kyoto shrines to explain how and why they came to be identified with the directional deities. Emphasis is placed on Heian Jingu, the youngest, yet most important shrine in the configuration. Constructed in the late nineteenth century to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto’s founding, the shrine itself is replete with references to the four guardian deities of the cardinal directions and therefore also provides an interesting case study of the establishment of a shrine of national importance in the climate of shinbutsu bunri and the process in which the entire shrine set-up, from the actual buildings and decorations to the rituals and the shrine priests, was created..
8. VAN GOETHEM ELLEN, From Scale Model to Shrine: The Creation of Heian Jingū, Invited lecture at the Asian Languages & Cultures Department Department, UCLA, 2017.03, The founding of Heian jingū in 1895 is usually explained in very simple terms; it was established to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the move to the Heian capital and was, therefore, dedicated to the city’s founder, Kanmu Tennō (r.781–806). A closer look at the shrine’s founding story reveals a much more complex narrative that involves not only doctrinal issues such as the deification of past emperors, but also material aspects such as the Meiji government’s creation of a blueprint for newly erected shrines. Moreover, it explains why a major imperial shrine (kanpei taisha) can be so replete with Chinese symbolism..
9. VAN GOETHEM ELLEN, Animated City: Life Force, Guardians, and Contemporary Architecture in Kyoto, Invisible Empire: Spirits and Animism in Contemporary Japan, 2017.02, In this presentation I explore the conviction that Kyoto is a city animated by a number of invisible agencies and how this notion has influenced the city’s contemporary architecture. Inspired by the belief that the city was designed and built according to the core principles of site divination (popularly known as fengshui or fūsui), it is generally assumed that Kyoto is vitalized by the invisible flow of qi and protected by the guardians of the four directions. Starting in the 1990s, when a fengshui boom gripped Japan, a number of architectural projects in Kyoto were conceived with explicit reference to fengshui either because of the architect’s personal beliefs, a particular client’s request, or to convince the general public of the project’s suitability to the city..
10. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Heian Jingu: Civic Shrine, Exhibition Pavilion, Imperial Shrine?, Workshop: "The Creation of a National Culture in Japan’s Modern Period: Architecture, Art, and Place", 2016.12, The founding of Heian jingū in 1895 is usually explained in very simple terms; it was established to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the move to the Heian capital and was, therefore, dedicated to the city’s founder, Kanmu Tennō (r.781–806). A closer look at the shrine’s founding story reveals a much more complex narrative that might help explain how a major imperial shrine (kanpeitaisha) can be so replete with Chinese symbolism and why in later years one of its designers expressed great disappointment at the end result..
11. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Buildings on the Move: Temple Construction and Capital Relocation in Ancient Japan, MOVING OBJECTS: AUTHORSHIP, OWNERSHIP AND EXPERIENCE IN BUDDHIST MATERIAL CULTURE, 2016.04, [URL], This paper examines the interrelationships between temple construction and the establishment of Japan’s Chinese-style capitals between the 7th and 9th centuries..
12. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Of Trees and Beasts: Site Selection in Premodern East Asia, The Third Conference of East Asian Environmental History (EAEH), 2015.10, [URL], Since ancient times people in the Chinese cultural sphere have been looking for ideal sites to construct graves, found cities, build houses, etc. These practices are generally grouped under the broad label of telluric divination or geomancy (Chn. 風水 fengshui). This paper focuses on a subcategory within telluric divination; it concentrates on a practice that received its own label—shijin sōō 四神相応 or “correspondence to the four deities”—in Japan but is in no way unique to the country.
In China, Korea, and Japan, a number of written sources dating from the 8th through 19th centuries describe the ideal siting conditions of private residences. What these sources have in common is that a residence needs to be surrounded by specific landscape features, either natural or manmade (a river, an irrigated plain, a road, and a hill), each corresponding to one of the four directional deities (the Azure Dragon, the Vermilion Bird, the White Tiger, and the Black Turtle-Snake).
Inhabitants of a site that corresponds to these topographical requirements are promised good health and a long life, a successful career, and numerous descendants. Interestingly, several of the written sources describing these ideal siting conditions also provide a practical—and in most cases realizable—solution to remedy any shortcomings in the surrounding topography in the form of substituting missing landscape features with specific (numbers of) trees.
This paper will thus compare and contrast a number of these sources to address the underlying philosophy of substituting landscape features for trees as well as issues of knowledge transfer..
13. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Foreign Beliefs in ‘Native’ Settings: Fengshui Elements in Shinto Shrines, ICAS (International Convention of Asia Scholars), 2015.07, The earliest evidence of the presence of fengshui-related practices on the Japanese archipelago dates back to nearly two millennia ago. At that time, there was no unified, systematized, or institutionalized indigenous religion. The loose set of native rituals and practices performed at the time is classified by scholars as kami worship and over the centuries that followed it was receptive of a wide variety of rites, symbolism, and beliefs belonging to imported religious traditions including Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity.
This process of absorption did not come to a halt when kami-related worship was systematized into what we now call Shinto. Close inspection of Shinto prayers and rites conducted at shrines reveals the pervasive influence of imported elements in this so-called native religion. To illustrate this point, this paper focuses on the famous Daizaifu Tenmangu shrine in Kyushu. Dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who was deified after his death and is still worshipped as a paragon of refinement and scholarship, the shrine draws thousands of visitors and has been designated an Important Cultural Property. The shrine is thus portrayed as a symbol of Japan(eseness) and its native religion. Scratching the surface, however, it quickly becomes clear that the core of the shrine's most important ritual, the rice-planting festival, and the norito (ritual prayers) recited at the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine are replete with fengshui-related references..
14. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Fengshui Protection: The Four Mythical Beasts and Shinto Shrines, アジア伝統科学国際ワークショップ2015  古今の宇宙観, 2015.06, This paper presents a discussion of the appearance and context of fengshui-related symbolism in Japan. Attention will be focused on the four directional deities (四神) and their associated symbolism from their initial appearance on the Japanese archipelago until the present day, in an attempt to show how this symbolism became fully assimilated to the point that it appeared in (early) modern times in contexts no longer consciously associated with their “original” practices or was fully absorbed into contexts that are deemed quintessentially Japanese. To illustrate this point, this paper will present a case-study of six well-known Shinto shrines, Dazaifu Tenmangū in Dazaifu, and Heian Jingū, Kamigamo jinja, Matsuo taisha, Yasaka jinja, and Jōnangū in Kyoto.
By doing so, this paper will argue that the four directional animals preserved their ancient Chinese role of “multivalent signs”, susceptible to many applications, interpretations, meanings and values. As symbols, i.e. visual depictions of underlying concepts, the four divine beasts adapted to (or, better still, were appropriated by) changing circumstances and new ideas to appear in new and entirely different contexts..
15. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Written, Used, Discarded, and Unintentionally Preserved: Writings on Wood in Ancient Japan, Hamburg University, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, 2013.11, This paper provides an overview of the discovery, typology, and practical use of kodai mokkan, inscribed wooden tablets that were produced in large numbers between the seventh and tenth centuries in Japan.
While a small number of these mokkan had been carefully preserved for centuries in imperial repositories, the vast majority of the tablets was not discovered until recent decades. Excavations of sites mostly related to local or central government facilities, elite residences, and temples have yielded hundreds of thousands of inscribed tablets or shavings (kezurikuzu).
As a result, our understanding of various aspects of government, economy, and society in ancient Japan has changed and we have been allowed glimpses of the practical execution of government regulations and of daily life. Mokkan have also contributed to a better understanding of archaeological remains as they occasionally allow for precise dating and identification..
16. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, Adopting and adapting the paradigm: Gridiron cities in Japan, International Institute for Asian Studies, 2013.11, [URL], Using the example of capital cities, this paper will address the issue of cultural borrowing and the subsequent modification of imported ideas in ancient Japan. It is common knowledge that during the early centuries CE the ruling elites of the Japanese archipelago were heavily dependent on Chinese archetypes and prototypes for the formation of the early state.
Unquestionably, one of the most visually striking and impressive examples of this process of cultural borrowing was the establishment of large, semi‐permanent urban centers. Laid out on a gridiron pattern with a clearly delineated space reserved for the ruler’s residential quarters as well as for the apparatus of government—itself also mostly newly introduced—these cities symbolized the power of the ruler and the political, social and cultural center of the recently emerged state.
In order to explain how the Chinese archetype was adopted and adapted, this paper will briefly trace the evolution of gridiron cities. Then it will address the process of selecting a suitable site for the establishment of these cities. This process is commonly addressed only briefly by referring to lofty ideals and/or to esoteric practices but has received little scholarly attention so far..
17. Ellen E. M. A. Van Goethem, “Heiankyō: Guardian Deities and Geomantic Theories”, 2013.09, This paper discusses the various geomantic theories that circulate to explain why the site of Heian was chosen by Kanmu tenno for the construction of the new capital. It challenges the commonly-accepted notion that shijin soo as described in "Sakuteiki" (in the east, the direction of the Azure Dragon, there should be flowing water; in the west, the direction of the White Tiger, there should be a broad road; in the south, the direction of the Vermilion Bird, there should be a pond; and in the north, the direction of the Black Turtle-Snake, there should be a mountain) was decisive in this matter..
18. Comparative Research on the Four Divine Beasts in East Asia: Capitals, Residences, and Trees.
19. The Four Divine Beasts: Asuka as Seen Through European Eyes.
20. In this presentation, a number of inscribed wooden tablets (mokkan 木簡) are presented to illustrate how their discovery has deepened our understanding of specific aspects of the Nagaokakyo era. Prior to the discovery of these wooden tablets, only a limited number of written sources contemporaneous to the Nagaoka capital’s existence were available to scholars. In the four decades since the discovery of the first inscribed wooden tablet in the remains of the former capital, this vast body of written evidence has also proved to be a valuable addition to the archaeological record of the Nagaoka capital..
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