Public Lectures 2011
Grand Prize 2011: ANG Choulean
- Amorphous Gods of Japan Seen from Faraway Cambodia
- September 18, 2011 (13:30-16:00)
- Event Hall B2F,ACROS Fukuoka
- Prof. ISHIZAWA Yoshiaki (Sophia Asia Center for Research and Human Development)
Public Lecture by Prof.ANG Choulean was held in ACROS FUKUOKA in 18 September, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with panelists.
“Common Concepts of Spirit Worship in Cambodia and Japan”
Before the arrival of Indian religious influence, spirit worship (animism) was deeply rooted among people in Cambodia. Today I would like to explain about one form of animism, Neak Ta, and also to present some aspects which this shares with Japanese Shintoism, which is also a type of animism. I will deliberately avoid any discussion of Buddhism and Hinduism here.
First, let us have a look at some villages in the north-western part of Angkor region. In the center of the village, a wooden post is placed. This is called ‘Preah Phum’ in the Khmer language. Villagers consider this to be the ‘navel’ of their village. It represents the whole area of the village including the parts you cannot see, and it symbolizes the energy of the soil of the village. Villagers hold their religious rituals such as praying for rain around the Preah Phum. By pouring water on the post, which embodies the entire area of the village, they believe that they can make rain fall. Such an idea has been deeply established among Cambodian people especially in the rural areas.
Now let’s extend our scope beyond the north-western Angkor region, and look at ‘Neak Ta’ which can be seen throughout Cambodia. A Neak Ta is a village guardian spirit, and also means ‘two in one’. One of the two things is the soil of the village community, which means houses, rice fields and other spaces used by the villagers. The other is a man. This needs not be a specific person and can be a legendary figure. He is the ancestor or the founder of the village, who cleared the woods and made the land usable for growing rice so that others could come and live there. Neak Ta usually houses a phallic dimension and can take different forms like a tree or a stone or even termite mound, but all of them represent the unification of soil and people, which is associated with rice cultivation. Religious belief is directly connected with the fertility of the soil.
Unlike Japanese Shintoism, Cambodian animism does not have a hierarchy of authorised priests, but there are important similarities including the abstract representation of invisible gods and also a close connection to rice cultivation. The significance of rice in Shintoism can be seen, for example, in ‘shimenawa’ (sacred straw rope) or the rice planting ceremony at Fushimi Inari Shrine. Another common feature is the use of sake (rice wine) for religious ceremonies. In the rituals of Neak Ta, each household brings rice wine, and after pouring some of it over the Neak Ta, the villagers share the rest. They do not drink in order to enjoy themselves, but to hold communion with the Neak Ta. In Japan, there is o-miki (rice wine for libation). I have seen a similar usage of rice wine during Utaki rituals in Taketomi island, Okinawa. Sake functions as a means of getting close to the gods’ world.
Neak Ta in Cambodia and Japanese Shintoism have no direct historical connection to each other, but both can be fit roughly in the same classification. I heard that Japanese are born in Shintoism, but die as Buddhists. Cambodia is exactly the same. There may be more similarities to be found, and I will continue exploring.
Immortal Faith in People’s Heart
Ishizawa: There are many equivalent beliefs to Neak Ta in Japan, with differences as well as similarities. Both Cambodia and Japan share Asian culture based on rice cultivation. When and how, and also on whose initiative does Neak Ta ceremony take place?
Ang: Since there is no Neak Ta priest, normally a respected senior person in the village is chosen. There is a sense of democracy among the villagers and this person is chosen based on consensusalthough there is no legal framework.
Ishizawa: So this senior or influential person does not conduct the ritual as his full-time job?
Ang: That’s right. They are just ordinary people. In most cases, there is no systematic election. Some of them have had a few years of training to be priests. They are respected.
Ishizawa: In villages, there are ‘acher’ (to conduct Buddhism rites). What is the difference between them and those who leadNeak Ta rituals?
Ang: In many cases, Neak Ta rites are carried out by the acher, too. But this is a result, not a reason. Because acher is respected in the community, he is chosen.
Ishizawa: In this era of urbanization, how is Neak Ta regarded in cities?
Ang: Neak Ta can be conducted impromptu just like a jazz concert. There is no liturgy. There is no sutra, and therefore no priest is needed. I believe that this basic principle of Neak Ta has reached out to the cities far beyond the rural areas.
Ishizawa: So they pray for their important needs which require urgent attention, like for protection for cows, or for recovery from sickness. My next question is whether Neak Ta was persecuted by Khmer Rouge, or not?
Ang: The majority of Khmer Rouge soldiers were from rural areas, and had faith in Neak Ta and also in Buddhism. But all religious worship including Buddhism and Hinduism was forbidden because of the political ideology. Religious act was banned. This situation lasted for a considerable time. However Neak Ta has survived, because, I think, nothing can remove a faith which is in people’s hearts.
Traditional Khmer Music
For this special occasion, traditional Khmer musicians were invited to play traditional music. There are several different types of traditional Khmer music. ‘Pin Peat’ is instrumental music played at Buddhist temples. ‘Phleng Arak’ is played during prayers to holy spirits, ‘Phleng Kar’ is for weddings, and ‘Mahori’ is for everyday entertainment. Each uses different musical instruments. At the Public Forum, 18 pieces from different genres were played.
Academic Prize 2011: CHO Dong-il
- East Asian Civilization Seen from Korean Literature
- September 17, 2011 (17:00-19:30)
- Event Hall B2F,ACROS Fukuoka
- Prof. INABA Tsugio (Faculty of Human-Environment Studies, Kyushu University)
- Prof. ITO Abito (Organization for Asian Studies, Waseda University)
- Mr. MATSUBARA Takatoshi (Director, Research Center for Korean Studies, Kyushu University)
Public Lecture by Prof. CHO Dong-il was held in ACROS FUKUOKA in 17 September, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with panelists.
Common Written Language’ and Mutual Understanding in East Asia
In 2005, my lifework, the six volumes of Hanguk Munhak tongsa (A Comprehensive History of Korean Literature) was completed. In this, I drew distinction between “antiquity”, defined as the era of traditional literature, the “medieval” period, the era of Chinese literature, and modernity, the era of vernacular literature. My attempt was to find universal rules applicable to any country.
Chinese writing has been used in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Outside China, the script is generally called ‘kanbun’, which means Han writing. In China, however, there are several terms such as “Han period language”, “Classical Chinese”, “Literary writing”, and “Later Han language”.
I suggest that such Chinese writing should be called ‘common written language’. Chinese is one of the four most widely used writing system in the world, along with Latin, Arabic and Sanskrit. East Asian countries have formed a single cultural bloc, with Confucianism as a common ideology and with the Chinese writing system for political and cultural communications. But literacy in this system required knowledge
and education. For ordinary people to communicate, a ‘common spoken language’ was necessary.
Although ‘written communication’ was made possible by efforts at state level to achieve unity in East Asia, ‘spoken communication’ developed in a natural way through individual interactions. In China and Korea, specialists were trained by the national governments; in Vietnam, Chinese settlers were hired for negotiations with China; but in Japan, merchants played these roles. Merchants from Hakata travelled tirelessly around Asia, learned many languages and ‘spoken communication’. Hakata was a center of this language, while Beijing was a center of ‘written communication’.
In Hanguk Munhak tongsa, all three types of literature - traditional, Chinese and vernacular literature - are studied on the same ground to examine their interrelationship. However in many countries, traditions are often not included in proper literary history, and Chinese and vernacular literature are not regarded as equal. For example, in Chinese literary history, Chinese literature is the only mainstream subject and vernacular literature did not get much attention until recently. If we think of China at the core of an East Asian cultural bloc, Korea and Vietnam can be said to be located in an intermediate zone, and Japan on the periphery. Literature in the ‘common written language’ was born in the center, and spread outwards. The further it went, the weaker its influence grew, and the more conspicuous the influence of vernacular literature became.
In European thinking, East Asia tends to be seen as a single bloc, but in reality, the differences between individual countries in geographical size, historical perceptions and economic status have produced unfortunate discords. It is high time that they should establish a meaningful unity which will transcend national boundaries. East Asians need to examine their own selves without depending on the partial views of Western scholars.
East Asian scholars writing about East Asian literary history should write first in Chinese script, and then put it into their native vocabulary. My ultimate target is to write a comparative history of the East Asian civilization which would include philosophical, religious, art and folk history.
Korea, Japan and an East Asian Circle
Inaba: Would you explain more about Prof. Cho’s theory, Prof. Matsubara?
Matsubara: One important keyword in Prof. Cho’s lecture is the ‘common written language’, which here means written Chinese. His suggestion is that we could use this expression among China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam where classical Chinese was commonly used in the Middle Ages. The other keywords are ‘written communication’ and ‘spoken communication’. The former refers to Chinese texts, and Beijing was its center as this was the focus of diplomacy. The latter, on the other hand, is what people spoke. The center of this type of communication was Hakata where merchants gathered and began their voyage to Asia. In the 12th century, there was a Chinatown for Song merchants in Hakata.
Ito: How peripheral, do you think, Japan was situated in your division of Asia? I think that it must have been quite peripheral, and that Korea was much closer to the core than the intermediate core. East Asian countries shared common languages such as Chinese which enabled people to have systematic and logical discussions. Communication between different regions created a world with shared values. But Japanese had a different type of communication which differed from this world of systematic logic.
Cho: Civilization emerged from the center in the ancient period, but in the transition to the Medieval and then to the modern period, it shifted outwards. In Europe, the core moved from Italy to England. A new wave came which pushed the less advanced forward and dragged the formerly advanced backward. As historical periods develop and change, the pivot of culture constantly shifts, and therefore it is not possible to say definitely how far a certain country is from the center.
Ito: Are there distinctive ‘Korean’ and ‘Japanese’ characteristics?
Cho: I think that Korean people have a theoretical way of thinking, like the Germans who are in the middle of Europe. Theoretical and systematic thought is idiosyncrasy of the middle position. Japanese have sensitive minds. I hope that these characteristic strengths of Japan and Korea can be combined towards the formation of a single East Asia.
Inaba: What do you think about the decreasing ability to read Chinese characters among young Koreans?
Cho: Both the general public and academics need to be able to use Chinese script because there is a danger that the meaning of words can change in the translation process. This is another reason why it is important to establish an East Asian academic community, and thereby a unified East Asia. While the EU stands on an economic and political foundation, an ‘East Asian Union’ would be built upon culture. In this process, scholarship should be the first priority, followed by art. I think that Hakata, close to Pusan, has the potential to function as a center of such a community.
Inaba: I hope that today’s public forum will encourage you all to think further about Japan’s place in East Asia.
Arts and Culture Prize 2011: Niels GUTSCHOW
- Conservation – The Hidden Path for an Architect to be Creative
- September 17, 2011 (13:30-15:30)
- Event Hall (B2F), ACROS Fukuoka
- Prof. FUJIHARA Keiyo (Graduate School of Design, Kyushu University)
- Prof. INABA Nobuko (Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, Tsukuba University)
- Prof. HATANO Jun (Faculty of Engineering, Dept. of Architecture, Nippon Institute of Technology)
Public Lecture by Prof. Gutschow was held in ACROS FUKUOKA in 17 September, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with panelists.
“Praise the Great Legacy of the Craftsmanship”
My father was an architect in Hamburg. In 1942, just after I was born, he was sketching a future for this city, with magnificent buildings lining the streets. But just after this, the war destroyed the beautiful city, and 30,000 people died.
While growing up among the ruins, I witnessed the vulnerability of the built environment, and this experience made architecture a part of my life. I felt that buildings were destined to fall down. After the war, a new movement to explore our future began. It aimed not only at preserving what has been left, but also at ‘recreating’ what has been lost. To make up for the losses inflicted by history, we must recover and recreate what has been lost.
I studied architecture at university. In 1971, the turning point of my life came. I became a member of the Bilateral German-Nepalese conservation project which aims to preserve and to restore the historical buildings in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur still have traces of mediaeval urban civilization. At the time of my first visit, in Bhaktapur, many Hindu temples were still in ruins after the major earthquake of 1934. I stayed for six months, and became fascinated by those temples. Since then for more than forty years, I have divided my time between Germany and Nepal, as if having two homes.
As an earthquake-prone country, Nepal needs earthquake-resistant buildings. We made a foundation four meters below the ground surface, and then assembled a steel frame, which is not visible from the upper part of the building. But this turned out to be rather unpopular among the Nepalese. Traditionally, when a temple becomes old, it is simply replaced by a new one, because it is an offering to gods, and therefore must be brand new. I had many discussions with the local engineers over making use of modern engineering. Differences between Asian and European thinking became clear. But it was the Nepalese craftsmen who knew what should be the best. Working with them day after day was the most fruitful time of my life. Craftsmanship and local knowledge, which have been passed down through the generations, are more important as a basis for conservation than what I was taught at university or what is written in the International Charters for Conservation. Forty years of working in Nepal taught me the local religious rituals as well as establishing many friendships. I think that emotional involvement is as important as professional engagement. By getting involved emotionally, many more things can be learnt.
When I studied architecture, I was taught that ‘Architecture is functional’. But functions differ in each culture. Take windows as an example. Are they to be opened? Not necessarily. They can be symbolic, or expressive. It is important to be free from preconceptions, and then to learn and understand diverse cultures.
- ---What is Conservation for?
- Hatano: I began working on royal buildings in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur in 1978. The experience made me want strongly to be useful to local people, and in 1990, I started a conservation project for I Baha Bahi, one of the Buddhist temples in Patan. It was on the verge of collapse. Nevertheless it was used all day long: formorning prayers, as a school for children, and as a washing place for women during the day, and for men to come and play chess in the evening. For the first few years, I was just a guest. But as I sweated away at work among the locals, I became one of them. used local materials and employed local techniques. We even rediscovered long-forgotten techniques together. The building has been successfully restored not only as a cultural asset but also as a center of local life.
- ---Listen to the Local Voices
- Inaba: I have been involved in the World Heritage as a committee member of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO. I would like to talk about Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It had prospered as a Buddhist holy place. But in the Afghan War and the more than 20 years of chaos that followed, the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas in 2001. One of the reasons why Bamiyan was designated as a World Heritage site is ‘the tragedy in 2001’. Some argue that it should be preserved as it is now, as a proof of ideological conflict. Some locals do not want to be reminded of their sad history, and therefore want it to be restored. Should it be preserved in its present state, or restored to its past glory? If it is to be restored, how far back into the past should restoration work go? The most important thing is what the locals want. Our role is to provide them with the necessary information.
- ---Prof. Gutschow’s View on Conservation
- Impatience is a taboo in conservation. Whatever we do, it would take time, and we must simply accept such a process with patience. Maybe civil war will return in Afghanistan, but we still must wait. It is not we, nor UNESCO, who should decide, but the Afghan people. What we can do is to help them as facilitators, or with financial support. Our work should start at the smaller places like the surrounding cave temples, not necessarily at the Bamiyan Buddhas. By this way, local understanding can be gained. We must start with what we can.
- ---Ending Remark by Prof. Fujihara
- We conduct conservation projects not only for the sake of cultural heritage, but in order to recreate the whole local society through the project. Prof. Gutschow says that specialists’ role is only a part of such a process. It is crucial that we work along with the local people and use local techniques. Understanding of what local people want and coordination towards achieving this are the most important professional responsibilities
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