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Kunimi or “land-viewing” is usually defined as an ancient Japanese ritual in which the ruler climbed a mountain or high place and gazed down upon the land. This understanding, however, is a rather modern one that only became truly widespread from the 1960s onwards. In this lecture I first outline the ways in which land-viewing was understood in early modern scholarship and how the notion of kunimi as an ancient ritual arose in the context of the emergence of the modern disciplines of anthropology and ethnology in the twentieth century. I then turn to examine how land-viewing functions as a kind of “virtual” ritual within eighth-century historical and poetic texts to exemplify a varied repertoire of representations of imperial authority.
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About the speaker:
Torquil Duthie was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in Cádiz, Spain. He is Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His main area of specialization is the literature of early and classical Japan (seventh-twelfth centuries). He is the author of Poesía clásica japonesa: Kokinwakashū (Editorial Trotta, 2005), Man’yōshū and the Imperial Imagination in Early Japan (Brill, 2014), Man’yōshū ni okeru teikokuteki sekai to kandō (Kasama shoin, 2017), and The Kokinshū: Selected Poems (forthcoming from Columbia University Press, 2023).