"Chigo no sōshi": A Homoerotic Handscroll of Five Buddhist Acolytes from 14th-Century Japan

Thursday, February 21 at 4:15pm to 6:00pm

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Doheny Memorial Library (DML), East Asian Seminar Room (110C)
3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Daigoji nanshoku-e [Daigoji’s Illustrations of male-male love], more commonly known as Chigo no sōshi [A booklet of acolytes] (ca. 1321) is a collection of five stories characterized by caustic humor and sexually explicit images of chigo’s (adolescent boy acolytes) infidelities to their master priests. In the literary tradition of medieval chigo monogatari (acolyte tales), this work is of great importance in that it reflects a master priest’s perspective and furnishes vivid depictions men’s sexual fantasies with chigo. My presentation will argue the following: first, that in addition to being a source of erotic stimulation and entertainment, Chigo no sōshi served to alleviate the anxieties of its producer (most likely an abbot of Daigoji) and his peers - anxieties caused by their disciples’ lack of sexual attraction for them, their aging bodies and decreasing sexual potency, and the realization that the post-graduation future of their young disciples would be much brighter than was their temporary acolyteship at the monastery. Second, I will argue that in the illustrations of Chigo no sōshi, the style of representing youthful bodies makes it clear that homoeroticism between a chigo and an adult male emulated certain norms of heterosexuality; namely, chigo were idealized for their visual resemblance to women. In other words, Chigo no sōshi marks a stark contrast to the pederastic arts of ancient Greece, which idealize transgenerational male homoeroticism by dissociating it from (a less desirable) heterosexuality. This difference suggests that the courtly masculinity of premodern Japan was strongly associated with feminine aesthetics.

Sachi Schmidt-Hori was born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, in Japan and grew up in Tokyo. She received her PhD in Japanese literature from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2012. She is assistant professor of Japanese literature at Dartmouth College and teaches courses in Japanese literature, culture, and sociolinguistics. Her research focuses on literary and visual representations of gender, sexuality, and power in ancient and medieval Japanese texts and illustrations. Her book manuscript, Tales of Idolized Boys: Transgenerational Male-Male Love in Medieval Japanese Monasteries, examines medieval Japanese romantic and religious tales on Buddhist acolytes. Her second book will examine the transformations of ideal femininities and masculinities in the literary tradition of Japan from the eighth through the nineteenth century.

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Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus

Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture
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