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Feminizing the Orthodox: Images of Quan Am and the Virgin Mary in Seventeenth Century Nom Texts

Feminizing the Orthodox: Images of Quan Am and the Virgin Mary in Seventeenth Century Nom Texts

A Colloquium with Professor Nhung Tuyet Tran, Department of History, University of Toronto and Visiting Professor, UCLA

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Writings describing Buddhist and Christian practices in early modern Vietnamese society often note their feminine character but seldom address the links between the two religions.   This paper explores the relationship between text, language and religious experience by examining stories of feminine virtue to their gendered audiences in Buddhist and Christian contexts. The Buddhist narratives of Quan Âm Thi Kính, a feminine “Vietnamese” incarnation of the Avelokitesvara, and representations of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Majorica nôm documents serve as the two genres of writing to be explored. 

The stories from Buddhist texts emerged out a religious revivalism of the seventeenth century.  They detail stories of virtuous women who protect their female followers.  The incarnation of Quan Âm Thi Kính, depicted visually as a Mother Offering a Child, embodied the hopes of sonless Vietnamese Buddhist faithful.   Stories of virtuous feminine Catholic saints likewise appealed to female converts, whose adoption of Christian notions of an afterlife for all presented hopes for their spirits to survive. The paper attempts to answer how the two genres of writing influenced one another and why such texts (which were read to their audiences) resonated with the lives of the faithful. 

Research for this paper was performed at the Hán Nôm Institute in Hà Noi, private collections in Ho Chi Minh City, the Archives of the Missions Étrangères in Paris, and the Vatican Secret Archives and Jesuit Archives in Rome.

Nhung Tuyet Tran is an assistant professor in the History Department and the nominee for the Canada Research Chair in Southeast Asian History at the University of Toronto.  She received her Ph.D. in history at UCLA and is currently writing a social history of women in early modern Viet Nam.  Forthcoming publications include Viet Nam: Borderless Histories (U. Wisconsin Press, 2004), co-edited with Anthony Reid.

Parking at UCLA costs $7.


Cost : Free and open to the public.

BarbaraGaerlan
310-206-9163
www.international.ucla.edu/cseas/
cseas@international.ucla.edu

Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies