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The Transformation of Poṣadha/Zhai in Early Medieval China (third–sixth centuries CE)

Issue: Vol 36 No. 1 (2019)

Journal: Buddhist Studies Review

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies

DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.37072


This article attempts to disentangle the semantics of zhai 齋 in early medieval China, mostly from the third century to the sixth, by examining both Indian and Chinese Buddhist sources. It demonstrates that semantic shifts in the term reflect a changing ritual context, as Chinese Buddhism rapidly took form. The article consists of two parts. The first part looks into how the Poṣadha Sūtra was first introduced to China and how the word poṣadha was employed in early āgama scriptures and the vinayas translated before the middle of the fifth century. The second part (from p. 89) examines the reception history of the lay poṣadha and the transformation that it underwent in early medieval China. The poṣadha/zhai in China eventually evolved into a religious feast centred on lay-monastic interaction in association with a variety of ritual elements, especially repentance rites.

Author: Yi Ding

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