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Abstract

By asking the question of how Empress Dowager Ling’s (d. 528) posthumous name—Ling 靈—was heard and understood by the people who lived in the Northern Wei 北魏 (386–534) capital of Luoyang in the sixth century and who saw the demise of their court, their Empress Dowager, and their city, this paper probes the nature of the Empress Dowager’s contested rule and her close affiliation with Buddhists and Buddhist institutions. The paper highlights certain and particular ambivalence toward Buddhist statecraft at the court of the Empress Dowager and reveals that her own patronage of the Buddhist tradition was not supported by her courtiers who believed Buddhism to be an increasingly defiled and dangerous source of social and political power in their time. Finally, this paper argues that, to her supporters, the name Ling was auspicious and associated with popular Buddhist ritual; whereas, to her detractors, the name suggested the unnatural usurpation of political order associated with popular Buddhist rebellion.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

In order to examine the ways in which women of the court interacted with the Buddhist monastic establishment in early medieval China, this article investigates one particularly important nunnery, the imperially-funded Yaoguang si (Jeweled radiance nunnery) of the Northern Wei (368–534). Using the Luoyang qielan ji (Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Luoyang, T. no. 51.2092), the Weishu (Book of the Wei), and selections from entombed mortuary epigraphy, or muzhiming, the study will introduce a number of women from the Yaoguang si whose lives complicate our understandings of what it meant to be a bhikṣuṇī (nun) in early medieval China, particularly in the turbulent North. Arguing that the women of the Northern Wei court moved in and out of the nunnery in order to advance their own political standing and safeguard their tumultuous lives, this study will reveal how ordained women appear to have lived at court, while, in some cases, women of indeterminate ordination status lived in the nunnery. Such a study both problematizes received notions of Buddhist ordination for women in China – largely influenced by the Biqiuni zhuan (Biographies of the Bhikṣuṇīs, T. no. 50.2063) – while also exposing just how antagonistic life was for women who lived and worked in a patriarchal court that did not provide space or opportunity for them to advance politically.


Open Access
In: NAN NÜ
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia
Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia explores the long relationship between Buddhism and the state in premodern times and seeks to counter the modern, secularist notion that Buddhism, as a religion, is inherently apolitical. By revealing the methods by which members of Buddhist communities across premodern East Asia related to imperial rule, this volume offers case studies of how Buddhists, their texts, material culture, ideas, and institutions legitimated rulers and defended regimes across the region.
The volume also reveals a history of Buddhist writing, protest, and rebellion against the state.
Contributors are Stephanie Balkwill, James A. Benn, Megan Bryson, Gregory N. Evon, Geoffrey C. Goble, Richard D. McBride II, and Jacqueline I. Stone.