Tang Women in the Transformation of Buddhist Filiality

Photo for Tang Women in the Transformation

Lecture by Ping Yao, California State University Los Angeles

Thursday, May 22, 2014
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche 10383

Scholars have long argued that Buddhism flourished among the Chinese by promoting the idea that monastic life represented the ultimate form of Confucian ideal of filial piety and was indispensable to the salvation of ancestors. They have further demonstrated that tales of a son's filial action in saving his mother's life and redeeming her sin greatly accelerated Buddhist sinification. Funeral inscriptions from Tang dynasty China, however, reveal that while filiality is indisputably an essential element of Chinese Buddhism, existing narrative about Buddhist signification is far from complete. In this talk, Yao explores the multi-dimensional nature of Chinese Buddhist filiality through an examination of two types of Tang funeral inscriptions. The first type of inscriptions record Buddhist pagodas and stupas constructed on behalf of the deceased parents; the second type are epitaphs dedicated to Buddhist women. These funeral inscriptions reveal that acts of filial piety among Buddhist believers reflect a more original Buddhist practice of filiality. More importantly, women were a reckoned force in defining, broadening, advancing, and manifesting Buddhist filiality.
Ping Yao is Professor of History and Director of Asian and Asian American Studies Program at California State University, Los Angeles. She received an MA in anthropology (1992) and a Ph.D. in History (1997) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yao’s research interests lies in women’s lives and women’s religious experiences in medieval China. She has authored, coauthored, or co-edited fourteen books, including, most recently, Gendering Chinese Religion: Subject, Identity, and Body. Currently she is working on a monograph entitled Good Karmic Connections: Buddhist Women in Tang China (618-907).
1997 Ph.D. History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Dissertation: Women, Love, and Femininity in the Writings of Bo Juyi (772-846) 
1992 M.A. Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Thesis: Power, Resistance, and Accommodation: A Women’s Writing System in Jiangyong, China 
1985 M.A. History, Fudan University, Shanghai, China 
Thesis: Ancestor Shrine System in the Western Zhou Period (Xi Zhou zongmiao zhidu chutan 西周宗廟制度初探) 
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Published: Friday, May 23, 2014