Yuanqi: medieval buddhist narratives from Dunhuang / D. Neil Schmid.

Schmid, D. Neil.
v, 288 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Asian and Middle Eastern studies.
Asian and Middle Eastern studies -- Penn dissertations.
Found among the manuscripts discovered in the caves at Dunhuang was a corpus of prosimetric Buddhist narratives. These texts, known as yuanqi, are the only extent examples of a critical genre of medieval Buddhist literature written in semi-vernacular Chinese. This dissertation offers the first in-depth examination of yuanqi, defining the genre, and demonstrating for the first time how yuanqi were used as a critical means of communicating Buddhist doctrine within a specifically liturgical context. The first chapter introduces the nine stories and the nineteen manuscripts of yuanqi texts as a distinct corpus. The second chapter elaborates the doctrine of karma and the determinative conceptual metaphors that structured both moral understanding and practice within the specifically narrative terms found in these texts. The literary form and rhetorical features are the subject of the third chapter. This chapter demonstrates that these elements are not simply formal properties but rather semantically motivated strategies operating toward moral learning in the Buddhist context. In order to situate Dunhuang yuanqi within the larger purview of Buddhist narrative literature, the fourth chapter examines the genre categories of canonical narrative literature. In viewing genre as an epistemic and pragmatic construct, the chapter demonstrates how Dunhuang narratives and their genre marker "yuanqi" are specifically configured to the medieval Chinese context. The final chapter closely studies the texts and manuscripts themselves and provides conclusive proof that these narratives were used as core texts in liturgies or "popular lectures" ( sujiang). The chapter then demonstrates how their performative context was in fact a continuation of a previous tradition of Buddhist proselytization. However, for the first time the unique information provided by Dunhuang manuscripts, and yuanqi in particular, permits the exposition of the detailed form, content, and method of such liturgical programs once common in medieval China.
Adviser: Victor Mair.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 3043951.
Mair, Victor, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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