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Please join the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago for the fourth and final installment of The Body in the East Asian Imaginaire Series on Monday, May 24, 2021 at 5 p.m. (CDT).
Dr. Emily B. Simpson, Lecturer in the Department of Religion at Dartmouth University will be speaking on Cooling the Womb of Stone: Empress Jingū and Embodied Pregnancy in Late Medieval Origin Stories. Empress Jingū is held to have conquered the Korean peninsula in the third century with the help of the gods while pregnant; indeed, a central motif of her legend involves Jingū postponing childbirth until she returns to Japan victorious. Although previous scholarship on Jingū has largely focused on her conquest journey and relationship with divinities, less attention has been paid to her pregnant state and her unique delayed labor. Yet, these subjects are dealt with directly in many temple-shrine origin stories (jisha engi) and picture scrolls (emaki) of the late medieval period, in which Jingū’s pregnancy and bodily needs, both practical and miraculous, are discussed. From adjusting armor to fit her pregnant body to the use of a stone to halt childbirth, medieval priests and the texts they wrote described vividly how pregnancy affected Jingū’s body as well as her bodily experience of the conquest journey. Furthermore, these texts connect Jingū to other pregnant women in Buddhist and Shintō traditions, showcasing a concern not only for the continuation of the family line, but the embodied contours of pregnancy and childbirth. Dr. Simpson suggests that these diverse origin stories demonstrate ambivalent attitudes toward the female body and its capacity for reproduction, at turns misogynistic and empowering, with childbirth itself framed as both a natural and miraculous female experience.
To register for this event, please click the Zoom link HERE.
Megumi Kim, Center Administrator