Indigenous Japanese traditions.

Doctrines Identifying early Shinto teachings which are originally Japanese is not easy because of the pervasive influence of Buddhism and Chinese culture. The most obvious 'doctrine' of Shinto is that deities (kami) inhabit particular sacred places in Japan. Some sacred sites are extremely ancient and clearly predate Buddhist influence, though the practice of constructing shrine buildings, many of which are similar to Buddhist temples, on or near the sacred sites may have come later. Founding legends (engi) explaining the origin of sacred places may be of local origin or reflect Chinese Buddhist or other sources. Descriptions of the age of the gods and the divine descent of the imperial clan found in early works such as the Nihongi and Kojiki, though influenced by Chinese ideas may be counted as local Japanese doctrines. Their original purpose was to legitimise imperial rule and they have contributed substantially to modern Shinto thought since their rediscovery by kokugaku scholars in the 18th century. It has been suggested that the Shinto idea of Yomi as the gloomy land of the dead derives from pre-Buddhist Japanese tombs (kofun). On the other hand some apparently indigenous Japanese beliefs (e.g. in the importance of shamanic women) have not prospered in Shinto.

History According to kokugaku (National Learning) scholars and 19th century Shinto's own mythology about its origins, Shinto is the pure indigenous religion of the Japanese people who in turn constitute a unique and separate race descended with their emperor from the gods. Modern archaeological evidence however shows the influence of various population movements across Japan and several different layers of culture and civilisation out of which Japanese religion and society as we know it emerged. Some ancient artefacts and symbols found in Japan have parallels in China, the Mediterranean and pre-Columbian America. If by Shinto we mean spontaneous reverence for sacred places, then some form of Shinto has probably existed as long as there have been people in Japan. However, by this definition 'Shinto' is a universal phenomenon of nature-worship not confined to Japan.

Symbols The shimenawa, a decorative rope of rice straw hung with strips of cloth or paper is often suspended under a torii at the portal of a shrine. It indicates the presence of the kami and probably predates Chinese influence. Shimenawa are found in many styles and sizes, ranging from thin strands of twisted rice straw to huge tapering hawsers. The simple and austere architecture of the Ise shrine, built in the shinmei ('sacred brightness') style also represents a pre-Chinese form of construction used for shrines and other buildings.

Adherents No contemporary adherents, although many 'folk' traditions claim ancient origins.

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