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Dr. Katja Triplett

Senior Research Fellow

(05-11/2017, 04-09/2018, 08/2019-03/2020)

Areas of Interest

  • Religion and the sciences
  • Religions and philosophical systems of Japan and China
  • East Asian Buddhism
  • Buddhism in (modern) Turkey
  • Religious visual representations and material culture
  • Pilgrimage

Research project: Religion and Medicine in Translation: Instances from Pre-modern Japan

The research project aims at contributing to the current debate about processes of boundary construction between religion and medicine in pre-modern Japan from the perspective of the study of religions. The project seeks to enrich the debate through the addition of an emic perspective rooted in a non-European, pre-modern culture. I will address the question of multiple secularities in an early and a later phase of negotiation of boundaries between religion and medicine in pre-modern Japan. The project focuses on two instances of emic debates: The first instance – which I have already discussed – addresses transcultural encounters and exchanges between Japan and the kingdoms of Korea and the Chinese empire in the medieval period. The second instance will be centered on the early modern period when Japan came into contact with European powers and Ming/Qing China, which initiated a period of intense linguistic and cultural translation activity with the processing of texts in European languages. The initiative came from Jesuit missionaries who started missionary activities in 1549 in Japan and began experimenting with different translation strategies and transcription systems. With the prohibition and persecution of Christianity not long after the establishment of the Catholic mission during a phase of interior political consolidation and the centralization of temporal power in Japan, the strict governmental circulation of knowledge gleaned from European informants and books initially hampered any occupation with the “foreign” knowledge. However, the influx of ideas and practices in the systems of religion and medicine (and science) from Europe, the European colonies in Asia and new stimuli from China and Korea in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries could, in the long run, not be halted. When the military ruler Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751, r. 1716–1745) relaxed the embargo on the import on foreign books and initiated scientific networks to stimulate the domestic production of medicinal plants, silk and other products in an effort of economic and financial reforms, social actors felt also encouraged to develop novel approaches to the intra-cultural boundary demarcation regarding religion and medicine. The proposed project explores inter-cultural boundary negotiations in the case of direct encounters between Europeans, Japanese Christian converts, Buddhists and Neo-Confucian officials in Japan on the basis of contemporaneous textual sources and secondary sources in the field of Japanese Studies and the study of religions. The focus will be on translation activities on texts concerned with “healing”, i.e. medical ideas of healing the physical body interlinked with religious ideas of healing as a form of liberation from illness and disease. Here, I will examine sources regarding the movement of establishing experimental medicinal plant gardens by the Jesuits as part of an initial missionary-medical endeavor as well as by the military government and the local domains in Japan that founded such gardens on a grand scale.
Finally, the project is concerned with rendering contemporaneous debates in Japan into contemporary academic writing as an act of translation.



Sessional Lecturer, Institute for Theology and the Study of Religions, Leibniz University Hannover

Fellow, Center for Modern East Asian Studies (CeMEAS), University of Göttingen (Germany)

2012 – 2016

Contigent Professor for the Study of Religions (East Asian Religions), Department for East Asian Studies, University of Göttingen (Germany)

2006 – 2012

Senior Lecturer, Department for the Study of Religions, Marburg University (Germany)

2005 – 2012

Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions, SOAS, University of London (UK)

2009 – 2010

Deputy Professor for East Asian Religion and Philosophy, Department for Asian Studies, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Munich (Germany)


Deputy Professor for the Study of Religions, Marburg University (Germany)

​2004 – 2005

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions (CSJR), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (UK)

​2002 – 2004

PhD (Dr. phil.), Department for the Study of Religions, Marburg University (Germany)

Relevant Publications

  • Triplett, Katja. “Using the Golden Needle: Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva's Ophthalmological Treatise and Other Sources in the Essentials of Medical Treatment.” In Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology. Edited by Pierce Salguero, 543–48. New York: Columbia University Press, in print (2017).
  • Triplett, Katja. “Wissen und Wunder: ‘Erleuchtung’ und das Bild des asiatischen Buddhismus im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert.” In Erleuchtung. Kultur- und Religionsgeschichte eines Begriffs. Edited by Almut-Barbara Renger, 367–95. Freiburg: Herder, 2016.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Medizinisches Wissen des tibetischen Buddhismus in Bewegung.” Paragrana, 25/1 (2016): 281–95.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Buddhist Superman. Imagination und Bild im buddhistischen Diskurs des japanischen Mittelalters am Beispiel der narrativen Bildrolle über den Heiligen Hōnen.” In Religion – Imagination – Ästhetik. Vorstellungs- und Sinneswelten in Religion und Kultur. Edited by Lucia Traut and Annette Wilke, 351–81. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
  • Triplett, Katja. “For Mothers and Sisters: Care of the Reproductive Female Body in the Medico-ritual World of Early and Medieval Japan.” Dynamis 34/2 (2014): 337–56.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Soziales Engagement ausgewählter buddhistischer Organisationen aus Japan, Vietnam und Thailand als Antwort auf Prozesse der Modernisierung.” In Religion und Politik im gegenwärtigen Asien: Konvergenzen und Divergenzen. Edited by Edith Franke and Katja Triplett, 117–40. Münster: Lit, 2013.
  • Triplett, Katja and Edith Franke. “Konvergenzen und Divergenzen religiöser und politischer Systeme im gegenwärtigen Asien.” In Religion und Politik im gegenwärtigen Asien: Konvergenzen und Divergenzen. Edited by Edith Franke and Katja Triplett, 5–11. Münster: Lit, 2013.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Healing Rituals in Contemporary Japanese Esoteric Buddhism as Acts of Individual and Collective Purification.” In Purification: Religious Transformations of Body and Mind. Edited by Gerhard Marcel Martin and Katja Triplett, 107–17. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.
  • Triplett, Katja and Gerhard Marcel Martin (eds.). Purification: Religious Transformations of Body and Mind. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.
  • Triplett, Katja and Christoph Kleine (eds.). Special Issue: Religion and Healing in Japan, Japanese Religions 37/1&2 (2012).
  • Triplett, Katja. “Magical Medicine? – Japanese Buddhist Medical Knowledge and Ritual Instruction for Healing the Physical Body.” Japanese Religions, 37/1&2 (2012): 63–92.
  • Triplett, Katja, Alexandra Grieser, and Adrian Hermann. “Museality as a Matrix of the Production, Reception, and Circulation of Knowledge Concerning Religion.” Journal of Religion in Europe, 4/1 (2011): 40–70.
  • Triplett, Katja, Lucia Dolce, and Gil Raz (eds.). “Section II: Ritual Discourse, Ritual Performance in China and Japan.” In Grammars and Morphologies of Ritual Practices in Asia (=Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual; Vol. 1). Edited by Axel Michaels et al., 355–578. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.
  • Triplett, Katja.“’Religionsfreiheit’ und die religiöse Vielfalt Japans.” In Interreligiöse Verständigung zu Glaubensverbreitung und Religionswechsel. Edited. by Christoph Elsas, 256–59. Berlin: EB Verlag, 2010.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Esoteric Buddhist eye-healing rituals in Japan and the promotion of benefits.” In Grammars and Morphologies of Ritual Practices in Asia (=Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual; Vol. 1). Edited by Axel Michaels et al., 485–97. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Japanese religionists.” Religions in Focus. Edited by Graham Harvey, 195–215 London: Equinox, 2009.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Zwischen Bürgerpflicht und Widerstand: Buddhismus und religionsinterne Kritik in der Sozialistischen Republik Vietnam.” In Religionsinterne Kritik und religiöser Pluralismus im gegenwärtigen Südostasien. Edited by Manfred Hutter, 65–81. Frankfurt am Main et al: Peter Lang, 2008.
  • Triplett, Katja. Streben nach Glück. Schicksalsdeutung und Lebensgestaltung in japanischen Religionen. Münster et al.: Lit-Verlag, 2007.
  • Triplett, Katja. “Buddhist pilgrimage.” In Pilgrims and Pilgrimage: Journey, Spirituality and Daily Life through the Centuries. Edited by Dee Dyas, virtual pages (CD-ROM publication), Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York & St John’s College, Nottingham, 2006.
  • Triplett, Katja. Menschenopfer und Selbstopfer in den japanischen Legenden. Das Frankfurter Manuskript der Matsura Sayohime-Legende. Münster [et al.]: Lit-Verlag, 2004.