For many years, students of China, Korea, and Japan were taught virtually nothing about Asian women in institutional religion. What were women’s spiritual expectations of themselves? Who were the women initiators, patrons, and ecclesiastical leaders in the formative years of Buddhism in Japan? What were their activities throughout the medieval centuries? Japanese philosophy and religion seldom asked these questions, instead maintaining research methods and approaches that were fated to carve out a history nearly devoid of women. In the twenty-first century, it is crucial that we reconstruct the curriculum of exclusively androcentric religious texts from the experience, practices, religious views, and history of women in religion.
Engendering Faith is a monumental and pioneering study on women and Buddhism. Collecting twenty contributions into five thematic sections, it brings new research on women and Buddhism to English-speaking scholars of Japan, religious history, and women’s studies. A set of prefatory articles translated and written by Barbara Ruch provide a literature review, historical context, an overview of contributions, and an introduction. Richly illustrated and with a comprehensive list of characters, Engendering Faith is essential reading for anyone interested in premodern Japanese history, culture, and religion.