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Political and Ritual Usages of Portraits of Japanese Emperors in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Morishima, Yuki (2014) Political and Ritual Usages of Portraits of Japanese Emperors in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines portraits of Japanese emperors from the pre-modern Edo period (1603-1868) through the modern Meiji period (1868-1912) by questioning how the socio-political context influenced the production of imperial portraits. Prior to Western influence, pre-modern Japanese society viewed imperial portraits as religious objects for private, commemorative use; only imperial family members and close supporters viewed these portraits. The Confucian notion of filial piety and the Buddhist tradition of tsuizen influenced the production of these commemorative or mortuary portraits. By the Meiji period, however, Western portrait practice had affected how Japan perceived its imperial portraiture. Because the Meiji government socially and politically constructed the ideal role of Emperor Meiji and used the portrait as a means of propaganda to elevate the emperor to the status of a divinity, it instituted controlled public viewing of the images of Japanese emperors. Such differences between the private and public functions of imperial portraits suggest that imperial portraits from the pre-modern and post-Meiji periods developed for different purposes, moving from a religious, commemorative purpose to a more secular, political one. By examining the psychological responses to the representations of Japanese emperors through primary documents, including official documents, diaries, and letters, I show that images exerted an emotive force on viewers. I also address the following questions: 1) What makes the portrait more than an image? 2) What gives that image meaning? 3) And how can a portrait become the focus of devotion? Imperial portraits, whether used for religious or political reasons, maintain a spiritual connection to reality and illustrate the power of representation. I conclude that this research on portraits of Japanese emperors will help scholars understand how the power of representations did affect changes in behavioral patterns from the Edo to the Meiji periods.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Morishima, Yukiyum9@pitt.eduYUM9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGerhart, Karenkgerhart@pitt.eduKGERHART
Committee MemberLinduff, Katherynlinduff@pitt.eduLINDUFF
Committee MemberRawski, Evelynesrx@pitt.eduESRX
Committee MemberSavage, Kirkksa@pitt.eduKSA
Date: 31 January 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 November 2013
Approval Date: 31 January 2014
Submission Date: 25 November 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 294
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: portraiture, Japanese imperial, portraits, Emperor Meiji, Sennyuji
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2014 21:17
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2019 06:15


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