Cadaverous: Treating Corpse-Disease and the Demonic Patient in Medieval Japanese Buddhism


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Early Career Research Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Departments of Religion and East Asian Studies


Although Buddhist medicine has become an important subfield in Buddhist studies, no previous work to date has extensively examined the Buddhist engagement with epidemics and other bodily diseases. This project seeks to remedy this gap by shedding light on the Buddhist response to epidemics and other emergent diseases in history, and tracing the longer cultural impact of those responses. In particular, this project examines Buddhist ritual and medical responses to the rise of unprecedented bodily afflictions in medieval Japan (1100–1400 AD), focusing on the Buddhist treatment of “corpse-vector disease,” a contagious disease imagined to spread by corpses. In so doing, it provides the first account of how Buddhist monks established and maintained their status as unrivaled healers in Japan.