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Authors: Zhai, Minhao
Advisors: Teiser, Stephen F.
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Apocrypha
Medieval China
Subjects: Religion
Asian studies
Asian history
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The dissertation discusses how Buddhist talismans were made, used, and understood in medieval China from the fifth through the tenth centuries. The study is based on a wide range of medieval sources, including transmitted canonical scriptures, apocryphal texts (yiwei jing 疑偽經), catalogues, hagiographies, standard histories, anecdotes, and unearthed ritual manuals from Dunhuang. The dissertation proposes that the current category of talismans in medieval China should be expanded. Instead of considering those labelled fu 符 as the only samples of talisman, the study provides a much broader conceptual framework that includes all consecrated man-made objects that release their efficacy through their contact with the human body. The new framework enables us to see the multivalent positions towards talismanic practices in medieval Buddhist communities. It also allows the dissertation to explore the commonalities in the making process between different religious traditions in medieval China. The research analyzes the major paradigms of utilizing talismans. It argues that the different patterns of logic behind these paradigms contribute to the construction of efficacy in talismans. This study also questions the bias that believes talismanic benefits are limited to the this-worldly realm. It shows that talismans were also tools concerning soteriological goals. Meanwhile, medieval people, no matter religious masters or lay practitioners, did not berate the mundane and materialistic benefits bestowed by talismans. Finally, the study reveals that talismanic practices were closely related to other ritual techniques and belonged to a larger ritual milieu. These techniques often inspired each other and were used together to address the difficulties and anxieties facing medieval minds. In sum, the dissertation proves that Buddhism, as an imported religion, both significantly benefited from and contributed to the talismanic tradition in medieval China.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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