Re-Presenting Chigo: The Figure of the Acolyte in Medieval Japanese Buddhist Literature
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In Japanese culture, the figure of the Buddhist acolyte, or chigo, has been a popular object of artistic depiction, both in image and in text. In fact, during the medieval period, and especially the twelfth to the thirteen centuries, the figure of the chigo inspired an entire sub-genre of literature, known as the chigo monogatari (or acolyte tales). These tales often depict romantic and sexual relationships between young acolytes and monks, and also valorize the acolyte as a potent spiritual being, somewhere between deity and human child. The goal of this project is to offer readings of these stories on their own terms, freeing their reception from normative scholarly interpretations that have so far narrowed their significance to how they serve as indexes to socio-historical "reality."