The Jataka Stories in Japan

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Item Code: IDJ893
Publisher: B.R. Publishing Corporation
Author: Anita Khanna
Language: English
Edition: 1999
ISBN: 9788176461054
Pages: 254
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
Weight 540 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Konjaku Monogatari is the largest collection of stories in Japan dating back to the medieval times and is comparable to the Indian work of Katha Saritsagar, the Ocean of Stories in scale.

The Jataka Story in Japan is an interesting and in-depth study of the Jataka tales present in the Indian section of Konjaku Monogatari and focuses on the evolution of these motifs in Japan. These range from the animal fables to the classical themes like Rsysringa and folk tales such as Ubasute Yama. A comparative study of these motifs portrays the cultural similarities and contrasts between India and Japan.

Based on primary sources this is a pioneer work on the presence of the Indian motifs in medieval Japanese Literature and its impact on Japanese life and culture.

About the Author

Anita Khanna obtained her M. A. and Ph. D. degrees in Japanese Language and Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been a research fellow at the School of Letters in Osaka University as well as the International Institute of Children Literature in Japan.

She has authored several articles in journals and magazines in India as well as Japan including a collection of Japanese stories.

At present she is Senior Assistant Professor in the Department of Japanese of the School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her major fields include Japanese literature, culture and Buddhist narratives.


It is common knowledge that Buddhism went to Japan from India and was responsible to a great extent for enriching the art and culture of that country. The how, why and what' of such a statement is seldom studies in depth nor is it investigated fully. This became clear to me when I tried to gather some facts to support the above statement and the magnitude of this Indo-Japanese encounter was an eye, opening discovery even for me. As I traveled through the grand world of Konjaku Monogatari, a work of the twelfth century, I found it to be an endless source of information on the assimilation and development of Buddhism in the three counties of India, China and Japan and the interweaving of local themes and folklore in their art and culture. This is specially evident in the case of India and culture. This is specially evident in the case of India and Japan where one gets a glimpse of the striking presence of Indian themes in Japanese lore. This is all the more surprising because it was at a time when any contact between the two was virtually nil. Needless to say, it was the advent of Buddhism that facilitated this process and its awareness and adoption was eventually promoted by the Royal Court and the Japanese aristocracy.

The objective of this work is mainly to bring out the literary aspects of the Indo-Japanese encounter brought about through the introduction of Buddhist thought into Japanese life and culture. I have tried to do an in-depth study of the influence of Jataka stories, which were widely adapted in Japanese literature and art. With focus on the Indian section the identical themes are presented in a comprehensive and comparative study based on the original Indian and Japanese sources of each one.

There are eight chapters in all out of which the first two chapters constitute the introduction giving the reader the background of the presence and extent of Indian culture and literature in Japan-in other words dwelling upon the 'how, what and why' of it. in chapter three, animal tales as adapted and told in Japanese lore are given and compared with the Jataka and other Indian sources. Rsyasringa and its varied versions as depicted in Japanese literature forms the fourth chapter. It is the most widely infiltrated theme into Japanese culture and is extremely popular. In continuation of this, Chapter Five contains the motif of the Valhasa Jataka which is associated with the worship of Avalokiteswara. In some of the Jatakas there is found an unique motif of problem solving which was adapted in Japan and has been presented in this work as Ubasuteyama in Chapter Six.

Last but certainly not the least insignificant. I have given the life of Buddha in the last tow Chapters. One depicts his life before his renunciation and the last takes his life up to the point of his Maha Nirvana classified as per the concept of Hasso, the eight stages in the life of Buddha. Although the life of Buddha is the prelude to the Jatakas, I have kept it at the end of this work so as not to interfere with the main focus of this work and divert it to a subject so complete in itself that it could be an independent theme of study. At the same time, not to have included it would have meant ignoring something that is a part and parcel of the Buddhist way of life.

In the case where Japanese texts have been quoted, I have given English translations and have tried to adhere to the original meaning as far as possible.

I take this opportunity to thank Professor Satya Bhushan Verma for his unstinting guidance and help. Likewise I thank my family, especially my husband, Dr. Pawan Khanna (medical) for his encouragement without which this book would not have been possible. I would also like to express my gratitude to Mrs. Chandan Swarup who patiently read the entire manuscript and gave her suggestions.


  Preface iii
1 Indian Culture in Japan 1
2 Buddhism and Japanese Literature 23
3 The Animal Tales 43
4 The Story of Rsyasringa as Ikkakusenin in Japan 87
5 Origin of the Island of Ceylon 107
6 Ubasute Yama and the Theme of Problem Solving 123
7 Life of Buddha (Before Renunciation) 135
8 Life of Buddha (After Renunciation) 175
9 Conclusion 221
  End Notes 227
  Appendix 233
  Bibliography 239
  Index 245

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