Legitimizing Buddhism through the Body: On Robe, Posture, and Tonsure in Early Medieval China’s Buddhist Communities.

01 November 2022 → 31 October 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Chinese language
    • Religious ethics
    • History of religions, churches and theology
    • Study of Buddhism
    • Religion and society
Medieval Chinese Buddhism Apologetic writings Body practices controversies Asia Middle Ages Chinese English Language and text analysis Body practice controversies Body studies Buddhist apologetic literature Hong ming ji Religion History Literary studies Philosophy Area studies Ethics and morality
Project description

This dissertation strives to fill the research gaps concerning three bodily-related controversies (baring the right shoulder, sitting with legs out front while eating, and shaving the hair) discussed inside Buddhist apologetic literature as soon as Indian customs began spreading to China. Starting from the question of why specifically these three practices were so harshly contested by the Chinese secular society, the present research project aims to understand why and how Buddhists defended these practices, using them as a means to legitimize the entrance of Buddhism on the Chinese soil. To this purpose, two discourse analyses will be carried out. Firstly, the discussions will be historically contextualized by means of a thorough investigation of several parallel sources, which will include classical Chinese literature, monastic regulations, commentaries, biographies, and travels accounts. Secondly, building on a sociologically oriented frameworks, a strong focus on the body as a channel to express both symbolic and social meanings—or reversely, as a tool shaped by social structures—will enable to better comprehend to what extent bodily issues matter on transcultural terms (from India to China) and during the assimilation phase of Buddhism in China.