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Dr. Katja Triplett

Areas of Interest

  • Japanese religion and society
  • Religion and medicine
  • East Asian Buddhism
  • Buddhism in (modern) Turkey
  • Religious visual representations and material culture

    German Research Foundation Priority Programme SPP 2130 “Early Modern Translation Cultures (1450–1800)”: Japan’s Translated Religion: Christianity, Transculturality and Translation Cultures in the 16th-17th Century

    The project aims at contributing to research of early modern translation cultures in a phase of lively transcultural exchanges between Europe and East Asia, here Japan, from a study of religions perspective. It looks at the dynamics of exchange processes between Catholic missionaries and Buddhists in late medieval and early modern Japan. From the encounter of two radically different translation cultures beginning with the Jesuit Mission in 1549, new approaches of translation and language theory developed in Japan that have so far not been looked at closely. The convention of reading religious texts in Japan exerted a strong influence on the translation of texts from European languages, especially when the Japanese writing system was chosen for presenting the translation. Reviewing a historical case study of a non-European culture based on primary sources such as the Contemptus mundi (1596; 1610) from the Japanese Jesuit press in a comparative study of religions perspective will expand the field of current translation theories. The project takes on two challenges regarding the radical difference of the translation cultures of Japan and Europe: The investigation of (1) social networks of actors and their oral as well as textual transfer of fiercely contested bodies of knowledge and, directly connected to this, (2) the involvement of the languages (Chinese, Japanese, Sinitic) and the complex East Asian writing systems they engaged with during the translation projects. The project primarily explores transcultural translation activity during the phase of cultural contact between Japan and Europe in the networks active in Japan including the activities of cultural brokers. The problem of a differentiation between Christian and “secular” texts from Europe is discussed in the project as an important topic in the study of religions. This differentiation was formulated by the Japanese authorities during the time when the prohibition of Christianity was implemented in order to distinguish between the legal and the illegal. The differentiation between “religious” and “secular” was negotiated among Jesuits and Buddhists as well as government officials. The censorship included not only the textual products of the Jesuit translation teams but also the utilisation of books in European languages imported to Japan. The aspirations to obtain new knowledge were dampened in this period by the strict bureaucratic regulations and the conservative stance of Buddhist clerics. The project is dedicated to the analysis of contemporary debates on the impetus from Europe on Japanese orders of knowledge and the role of the translation mode of kanbun kundoku that had evolved in Japan over many centuries. This unusual translation mode can be described as including the source text itself within the target text. Overall, emic considerations of language and translation theory in early modern East Asian culture provide an important case for comparative research on other non-European regions and early modern Europe.

    See also: Japan’s Translated Religion


    ​2018 – 2019

    Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Religions, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany


    Senior Research Fellow, Project: Religion and Medicine in Translation: Instances from Pre-modern Japan, HCAS Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities


    Senior Research Fellow, Project: Buddhism and Medicine in Pre-modern Japan and Beyond, CHSHSS 


    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

    Contingent 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. Buddhism and Medicine in Japan: A Topical Survey (500-1600 CE) of a Complex Relationship. Religion and Society 81. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019.
    • Triplett, Katja. "Religion, Medicine and the Notion of Charity in Early Jesuit Missionary Pursuits in Buddhist Japan." Journal of Religion in Japan 8/1-3 (2019): 46-75.
    • Triplett, Katja. "Buddhist Monastic Physicians’ Encounters with the Jesuits in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Japan, As Told from Both Sides." In Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Sources, edited by C. Pierce Salguero, 3-15. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.
    • Triplett, Katja. "On Sickness, Society, and the New Self in Early Edo Japan: Soshin’s Dharma Words (Seventeenth Century)." In Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Sources. Edited by C. Pierce Salguero, 16-21. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.
    • Triplett, Katja. "Pediatric Care and Buddhism in Premodern Japan: A Case of Applied ‘Demonology’?" Asian Medicine (Special Issue "Religion and Medicine" edited by Katrin Killinger, Christoph Kleine and Katja Triplett) 14/2 (2019): 313–341.
    • Triplett, Katja, with Katrin Killinger and Christoph Kleine. "Distinctions and Differentiations between Medicine and Religion." Asian Medicine (Special Issue "Religion and Medicine" edited by Katrin Killinger, Christoph Kleine and Katja Triplett) 14/2 (2019): 233–262.
    • Triplett, Katja. "The Japanese Jesuit Contemptus Mundi (1596) of the Bibliotheca Augusta: A Brief Remark on a New Discovery." Journal of Jesuit Studies 5.1 (2018): 123-127.

    See here for the complete list of publications.