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Leading the Good Life: Peng Shaosheng’s Biographical Narratives and Instructions for Buddhist Laywomen in High Qing China (1683-1796)

Wu , Hongyu (2013) Leading the Good Life: Peng Shaosheng’s Biographical Narratives and Instructions for Buddhist Laywomen in High Qing China (1683-1796). Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation is focused on the Shan nüren zhuan (Biographies of Good Women), the only collection of biographies devoted exclusively to Buddhist laywomen that crossed sectarian lines, composed by Peng Shaosheng (1740-1796), a Confucian literatus turned Buddhist layman and a leading lay voice in early modern Chinese Buddhism. The dissertation examines the life stories of these exemplary Buddhist laywomen in the High Qing (1683-1796), a period marked by social and political change that included the revival of Confucian classicism, increased visibility of women’s work, and government policies that reinforced an intrusive morality into the lives of women. Buddhism, long established as both working in tandem and sometimes in conflict with traditional Chinese values, was part of that change. Among the conspicuous features of this period in Chinese Buddhist history are the developments of independent leadership roles for the laity as distinct from the clergy and a prevailing notion of syncretism, which was reflected in the efforts of many Buddhists of the time to combine Buddhism and Confucianism. In addition, Buddhism in early modern China saw an increased focus on the proper behavior of the laity, family values and social concerns, and the religious consequences of such behavior in the form of promises of a happy afterlife, that is, rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha. Moreover, especially for lay society, enlightenment and rebirth in the Pure Land became fundamentally the same goal. This project examines how the biographical narratives of Buddhist laywomen were incorporated into Buddhist-Confucian debates to defend against Confucian accusations against Buddhism for its perceived lack of concern for social issues and morality while, at the same time, trumpeting Buddhism over Confucianism for its attention to the afterlife or rebirth in the Pure Land. The dissertation also investigates how the biographies proselytize the early modern notion of the dual cultivation of Chan meditative and Pure Land devotional practices within the Buddhist community as well as motivate male Buddhists to accelerate their own spiritual progress through the employment of gendered rhetoric.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wu , Hongyu
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPenkower , Linda penkower@pitt.eduPENKOWER
Committee MemberLinduff , Katheryn linduff@pitt.eduLINDUFF
Committee MemberRawski, Evelyn esrx@pitt.eduESRX
Committee MemberChilson, Clarkchilson@pitt.eduCHILSON
Committee MemberShear , Adam ashear@pitt.eduASHEAR
Date: 2 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 April 2013
Approval Date: 2 July 2013
Submission Date: 19 April 2013
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 289
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Buddhist laywomen Biography Gender Buddhist Practice High Qing China Gender
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2013 17:12
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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