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Women, Buddhism and Modernity in China, 1900-1950

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Recent years have seen fine studies of women in Republican-era China (1911-1949) as well as works about Buddhism in the same time-period, however few such works focus on the intersections of “women” and “Buddhism.” This book explores what “religion,” “Buddhism,” and “modern” meant to women of different backgrounds in those decades though analysis of a wide variety of materials including Buddhist associations and schools, legal cases, representations of Buddhist women in the Chinese popular press, opera, and cinema, fiction and non-fiction by Buddhist women, accounts by foreign writers and photographers, and new roles for and representations of Buddhist women during the Second World War and Civil War, 1945-1950. Throughout, Chinese Buddhist women voiced their views on personal and national enlightenment, women’s rights, social engagement, and questions of transcendence and liberation. Here, some comparison with Korean Buddhist women, Japanese women writers, and American Catholic nuns is instructive, since such debates also took place within these three groups. The overarching goal of the book is to interrogate the reformationist discourse of the Chinese Buddhist modernization project: What did various Buddhist women stand to gain or lose in terms of community and agency, integral with their interpretations of Buddhist cosmology and their spaces of devotion?

Published: Oct 1, 2020