Rethinking the Ako Ronin Debate: The Religious Significance of Chushin gishi

John Allen Tucker
1999 Japanese Journal of Religious Studies  
k e r This paper suggests that the Tokugawa Confucian debate over the Ako revenge vendetta was, in part, a religious debate over the posthumous sta tus of the forty-six ronin who murdered Lord Kira Yoshinaka as an act of revenge for the sake of their deceased master, Asano Naganori. At issue in the debate was whether the forty-six ronin were chushin gishi, a notion typ ically translated as "loyal and righteous samurai. " The paper shows, how ever, that in Tokugawa discourse the term chushin
more » ... i had significant religious nuances. The latter nuances are traceable to a Song dynasty text, the Xingli ziyi, by Chen Beixi, which explains that zhongchen yishi (Jpn. chushin gishi) could be legitimately worshiped at shrines devoted to them. The paper shows that Beixi text was known by those involved in the Ako debate, and that the religious nuances, as well as their sociopolitical impli cations, were the crucial, albeit largely unspoken, issues in the debate.1 he paper also notes that the ronin were eventually worshiped, by none other than the Meiji emperor, and enshrined in the early-twentieth century. Also, in prewar Japan, they were extolled as exemplars of the kind of selfsacrijicing loyalism that would be rewarded, spiritually, via enshrinement at Yasukuni Shrine.
doi:10.18874/jjrs.26.1-2.1999.1-37 fatcat:7swacinwjjc6ze4hax6gpmrrui