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Home » 9. Texts and Sources » Introduction: Texts and Sources
Introduction: Texts and Sources
This part, divided into two sections, focuses on textual and bibliographic information about works important to the history of Shintō and to an understanding of Shintō thought. After an overview of the genre of "Shintō texts," the first section surveys the significance to the Shintō tradition of the category of works known as "Shintō classics" and of some texts by individual thinkers. Much research, from various perspectives, has been done on the subject of Shintō and literature, but to explore this issue in detail would require a broad examination of developments in literary history. Here, thus, consideration has been limited to literary works in which Shintō elements are prominent, such as those dealing with the origins and histories of shrines (engi) and popular expositions of Shintō (shintō kōshaku). The emphasis in this section is weighted to the ancient and medieval periods.
       Shintō does not have a body of sacred texts recording foundational teachings comparable to the New Testament in the Christian tradition, the Koran in Islam, or the Buddhist sutras. But, as use of the terms "Shintō classics" (shintō koten) or "sacred texts" (shinten) indicates, various works contain concepts fundamental to Shintō or otherwise bear crucially on its history. The narrative content and structure of Kojiki and Nihon shoki resemble in certain aspects the Christian Old Testament (which is simultaneously the sacred text of the Judaic tradition). That is, they begin with an account of the relationship between a people and its deities, and trace the history of that people through a genealogical line of descent. The format of Nihon shoki was modeled after the chronological annals style of Chinese historical works, but because of its content served as well as a Shintō sacred text. As with the Old Testament and the Hindu Vedic scriptures, Kojiki and Nihon shoki also include accounts of traditional rituals, while the texts known as norito (liturgies) and senmyō (imperial proclamations) record the liturgies recited on the occasion of such rituals. The works regarded as "Shintō classics" thus also have the character of ritual texts.
       Section 2, on basic texts, provides descriptions of one-hundred and six separate sources. Of the items attributable to an identifiable individual figure, a substantial number are works by Kokugaku thinkers of the early modern period. Given the weight of the Kokugaku influence on present-day Shintō theology and teachings, this is only to be expected. In the medieval and early modern periods Buddhist priests and Confucian thinkers also made important contributions to the formation of Shintō thought and undertook studies of Shintō texts. This section thus includes works by such figures as well. Other sources described are accounts of the origins and histories of shrines (jinja engi) and records of ceremonial (gishiki chō ). While not necessarily reliable as records of historical fact, accounts of shrine origins have major value as sources of information about the beliefs people of the time held, or were encouraged to hold, about particular shrines. Many of the records of ceremony and ritual are connected to the Grand Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū), a circumstance that illustrates the great importance placed at Ise on the preservation of ritual forms.
       Intellectual writings related to Shintō and accounts of shrine origins of course exist in vast numbers. Consideration here has been limited, however, to those works regarded as most fundamental. Likewise, while figures such as Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane wrote many works of importance to research on Shintō, in this section it has only been possible to take up a few of their most representative writings. Further information about the works of individual thinkers may be found in the entries on figures central to the history of Shintō included in part 8.
       The works taken up in section 2 differ widely in nature, and it is difficult within the compass of a brief entry to sum up accurately the total content of each. The entries consequently concentrate on providing basic information, such as the name of the author, if known; the circumstances of the work's composition; its format and scope; the most notable features of its content; and its general significance. For works available either in their entirety or in part in modern printed editions, information is provided about the name of the volume or the collection in which they appear.

— Inoue Nobutaka
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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