Ethan Bushelle, PhD

Associate Professor



Ph.D. Japanese Religions and Literature, Harvard University


Prof. Bushelle is a historian of ancient Japan. In both his teaching and research, he situates the history of ancient Japan in a global context, exploring the cross-cultural interactions that gave rise to the myths, rituals, and institutions often assumed to be native to Japan, from Shinto to samurai and the imperial system. He is currently working on a book project that seeks to understand the formation of the ancient Japanese state as a creative response to intercultural dynamics that swept across the Eurasian continent beginning in the Bronze Age. In addition to courses on Japanese culture (HUMA 275: Humanities of Japan) and religion (REL/EAST 382: Religion and Society in Japan; REL 426/EAST 435: Shinto), Prof. Bushelle also teaches courses on Chinese religions (REL/EAST 380: Religion and Society in China), Buddhism (REL/EAST 375: Buddhism; EAST 497: Zen; EAST/REL 426: Tantra), and the academic study of religion (HNRS 219: Colloquium in Religious Studies). 

Current Courses

EAST 302: Materials and Methods in East Asian Studies

Selected Publications

The Three Treasures: A Revised and Illustrated Study and Translation of Minamoto no Tamenori’s Sanbōe. With co-author Edward Kamens. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 2023.

The Mountain as Mandala: Kūkai’s Founding of Mt. Kōya.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. Special Issue: Esoteric Buddhism 47(1): 43–83, 2020.

“The Green Bamboo is the Dharmakāya: Waka Poetry and the Buddhist Imagination in Heian Japan.” In Buddhist Literature as Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy as Literature. Rafal Stepien, ed. Albany, NY: State University of New York (SUNY) Press: 169–93, 2020.

Mountain Buddhism and the Emergence of a Buddhist Cosmic Imaginary in Ancient Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 45(1): 1–36, 2018.

Setsuwa no gensetsu to ōken: Shōdō katsudō o jiku ni (Sovereign Power and the Discourse of Setsuwa Tales: The Practice of Preaching as Mediating Link). Rikkyō Daigaku Nihon Bungaku: Komine Kazuaki Teinen Kinen Tokushūgō (Special Volume of Rikkyō University Journal of Japanese Literature in Honor of Komine Kazuaki’s Retirement), 111: 185–93, 2014.

Seppō to ōken: Michinaga kara Go-Shirakawa made” (Buddhist Preaching and Sovereign Power: From Michinaga to Go-Shirakawa). Kokubungaku Tōsa, 26: 93–104, 2014.