Obituary: Nishimura Ryō 西村玲 (1972-2016)

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Nishimura Ryō 西村玲 (1972-2016)

With heavy hearts, we must share the news that Dr. Nishimura Ryō passed away on February 2nd, due to multiple organ failure related to a longstanding medical condition. Dr. Nishimura shone as a leading light among scholars of Edo-period (early modern) Buddhism in Japan. Dr. Nishimura received her PhD in Intellectual History from Tohoku University in 2004. After spending a postdoctoral term at the University of Tokyo, which included a year at Princeton University, she assumed a position as research fellow at the the Nakamura Hajime Eastern Institute.

Her first monograph, Kinsei Bukkyō shisō no dokusō (The Originality of Buddhist Thought in the Early Modern Period, Transview, 2008), pioneered the study of Buddhism within the broader context of early modern Japanese intellectual history. In 2010, this work earned prizes from both the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Nihon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai) and the Japan Academy (Nihon Gakushi-in). The latter award is of note because it is hardly ever granted to any younger scholars, much less to younger scholars of the humanities. After receiving these awards, Dr. Nishimura continued to publish, maintaining her focus on Edo Buddhism. She also produced several articles treating disputes between Buddhists and Christians in Late Ming-dynasty China, and on their reception in early modern Japan. Dr. Nishimura also made very important contributions to our understanding of modern Japanese Buddhism. Her provocative challenge to the "modernity" of the notion that the historical Buddha did not preach the Mahāyāna teachings, for instance, appeared in English in The Eastern Buddhist, 42/1, 2011.

As a remarkably broad-minded scholar whose depth of intellect was matched by her modesty and kindness towards her colleagues and kōhai, Dr. Nishimura left her successors both a model of caring and scholarship to follow, and a great, untouched body of work for them to continue. Her private funeral will be held in Tokyo by her family, which politely declines any offerings. Dr. Nishimura will be missed very, very much.

Micah Auerback and Orion Klautau

Micah Auerback
Associate Professor
University of Michigan

Orion Klautau
Associate Professor
Tohoku University

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