Group 5 Finally decided that although “5” was a good name and treated us well, it was time to choose a new name that was a bit more personal and connected to our final project. With this in mind, we agreed on the name “Nāga”. The Nāga were mentioned in Caitlin’s update, but upon more reading, we found that the integration and influence from the Indian/Buddhist Nāga into Chinese, and particularly Japanese myth, is quite prominent. This further reading comes primarily from the book The Dragon in China and Japan, written by M. W. de Visser. This book is an example of stumbling upon a near perfect source for this part of our research, a phenomena that is quite satisfying to any researcher.
Although the Buddhist Nāga of India are not intended to be the main focus of our final project, they are still crucial to analysis due to how their myth has integrated into local lore, and from the historical context the myths give to the transfer and shaping of ideas. The integration of myth and lore can be seen more heavily in Japan than China because Buddhist influence was stronger in Japan, however, both nations incorporated these Buddhist creatures. This may not have been a radical change though, because the Nāga and the local dragons and serpents shared many of the same qualities, mostly pertaining to water and strength. The influence from Buddhist myth in japan can then be seen clearly by de Visser’s attention to their reverence of the Buddha and his teachings, showing that the Buddha can be even more powerful than dragon gods. Seen below is an image of the Buddha riding a Japanese dragon, showing the relationship of the Buddha with the dragons who are known to “supplicate” before him as de Visser states.
Kunisada II Utagawa, ”The Dragon” From the series, Modern Illustrations of Buddhist Precepts. http://www.japaneseprints.net/prints.cfm?ID=Kunisada%20II
Research into the historical context of Chinese and Japanese dragons is making me even more excited to flesh out the rest of the project, and to analyze what dragons and snakes may indicate about China and Japan through their stories.