26 August 2010
A New Perspective from the Song Dynasty
“By gradually accumulating good deeds, purifying vulgarities, passing through many
forms, and refining the spirit, one can arrive at a level at which rebirth will not recur and thus
attain buddhahood” (Chinese Civilization, p. 98).
As a Japanese Buddhist monk, I, Tōjin, have
learned to live by these words of Wei Shou.
It is my duty to relay the teachings of Buddhism in
hopes of creating and upholding a peaceful and spiritual society.
However, in the year 1010, I
felt that the people of my hometown of Heian-kyō had begun to fall far from Buddhist teachings
(East Asia 155).
I wished salvation for my people through faith in Amida, which must be shown
through devotion (East Asia p. 155).
Thus, I decided to travel to the Northern Song dynasty of
China to learn the latest forms of devotion.
Not only would I learn of new religious traditions,
but I would also witness new forms of city life, government, and economics.
My decision to travel to the Song capital of Bianjing proved to be a wise one.
life and urban design were the first outstanding characteristics of which I took notice. This city
was vastly different from Heian-kyō.
This city was not square, as I had initially expected, and it
had no walls, boundaries, or wards.
Because of this, government officials were in direct contact
with ordinary citizens (East Asia, p. 131).
Also, the city was incredibly populated – merchants,
peasants, and farmers filled the streets and marketplaces.
I contrasted this vibrant cosmopolitan
city to Heian-kyō, with its extensive motes and walls, sparse-looking palaces, and unpopulated