Heian Jingū: A “Traditional” Shrine in a “Foreign” Guise

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The founding of Heian jingū in 1895 is usually explained in very simple terms; it was established to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the move to the Heian capital and was, therefore, dedicated to the city’s founder, Emperor Kanmu (r.781–806). A closer look at the shrine’s founding story reveals a much more complex narrative that illustrates the fits and starts of State Shinto in the first decades of the Meiji period.
As such, this paper touches not only on doctrinal issues such as the deification of past emperors, but also on material aspects such as the Meiji government’s creation of a blueprint for newly erected shrines. Moreover, tracing Heian jingū’s founding story might help explain how a major imperial shrine (kanpei taisha) can be so replete with Chinese symbolism and why in later years at least one of its designers expressed great disappointment at the end result.
The paper concludes by arguing that exactly these China-derived elements—and their related beliefs and practices—currently form the core of Heian jingū’s self-portrayal and play a crucial role in its continued popularity.
PeriodAug 31 2017
Event title15th European Association for Japanese Studies International Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational