Papers on Religion IV

Family and Gender
Thursday
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Anna Sokolova
  • Susan Naquin, “Chinese Female Deities: A History?”
  • Wanrong Zhang, “Women as Sex Object: The Female Image in The Religious Morality Text on Prohibiting Debauchery in the Qing Dynasty”
  • Thomas Jansen, “The Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷): A Late Imperial Chinese Marriage Guide?”
  • Stefan Kukowka, “Family Ethics in the Context of a Confucian-Buddhist Discourse—A Discourse Analysis of the Lay Education of ‘The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan’”

Susan Naquin, “Chinese Female Deities: A History?”

Prior to around the year 1000, most Chinese deities with wide followings were represented as either clearly male, comfortably androgynous, or not human at all. In the following centuries, gods who were explicitly female appeared and became ever more popular. This transformation has been recognised by those who are interested in such matters but not studied directly or systematically. Drawing on my own book-length research and adding to the more familiar histories of Guanyin 觀音 and Tianhou 天后 (Mazu 媽祖), this presentation will first examine the comparably regionally based but different processes behind the expansion of the worship of Bixia Yuanjun 碧霞元君in North China from the Song through the Qing.
The rise of these and other female deities and their prominence down to the present day has been understood as a success. Even research on China since 1850 has emphasised not only the destruction of the physical and organisational religious infrastructure but also its more recent and vigorous revival. For this period, however, the history of Bixia Yuanjun suggests a different story.
My presentation will therefore also use this northern example to invoke another trajectory. I will suggest instead that other processes have also been at work in the last century, processes that have undermined and diminished all female gods and even the pantheon more generally: amalgamation, homogenisation, and banalisation. I invite comparison with parts of China.

Wanrong Zhang, “Women as Sex Object: The Female Image in The Religious Morality Text on Prohibiting Debauchery in the Qing Dynasty”

This paper shows the female image in the male vision in the Chinese religions of the Qing dynasty by studying the Jieyinshu 戒淫书. Jieyinshu, the morality text on prohibition the debauchery, is a kind of book about sexual morality since the late ming dynasty, produced mainly by the religious groups and the literati. Man is the primary character in the books, taught by the gods in Taoism and Buddhism and the Confucians, and woman is the sex object, described as a dangerous and sexually seductive existent. This is different from the female teaching books (Nüjiaoshu 女教书), which focus on the teaching of female fidelity and have been studied by many scholars. Jieyinshu discusses the female body basing on the ancient religious disciplines and discourses, which require men to restrain women at their families to reduce the sexual temptation (Sugui 肃闺), in order to achieve the purpose of prohibition the debauchery. My paper compares the similarities and differences in sexual morality between Jieyinshu and Nvjiaoshu, and then studies the ideas and the ways of Sugui. As a group of material rarely studied, jieyinshu will provide a new perspective to understand the women’s body and social status at that time, particularly in terms of sexual behaviours and psychology.

Thomas Jansen, “The Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷): A Late Imperial Chinese Marriage Guide?”

The seventeenth-century witnessed a challenge to Confucian family virtues among the non-elite population. The ‘fierce wife’ or ‘shrew’ is a prominent theme in Pu Songling’s 蒲松齡 (1640–1715) collection Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋志異 (Strange Tales from the Liaozhai Studio). In an essay on the topic, Pu urged people to donate money for the printing of a Buddhist sutra which was supposed to restore the traditional power balance between husband and wife. The view that religious texts could be manipulated by their users to handle everyday affairs is occasionally echoed in the scholarly literature on Chinese religions but rarely examined in more detail. In my paper I will explore the use of religious texts as guidebooks for solving everyday problems, using a manuscript copy of the Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷) as my case study. First, I will briefly summarise the content of this baojuan and then focus the analysis of the text on three questions: What information does the text yield about how it was used? Is it a text for men, women or both? How is the relationship between husband and wife conceptualised in this baojuan compared to, for example, the stories in Liaozhai zhiyi?

Stefan Kukowka, “Family Ethics in the Context of a Confucian-Buddhist Discourse—A Discourse Analysis of the Lay Education of ‘The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan’”

Founded by Ven. Jingkong (1927–) in 1989 and run by Ven. Wudao (1951–), “The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan Society” (huazang jingzong xuehui 華藏淨宗學會) displays distinct characteristics in terms of its advocated path towards rebirth into Amitābha’s Pure Land. The mindful recollection or mere invocation of Amitābha’s name (nianfo 念佛) is not enough to achieve rebirth, instead, monastics and laypeople have to focus on this-worldly cultivation based on Confucian and Daoist scriptures. Jingkong and Hwa Dzan emphasise that the improvement of one’s fate—and therefore the chance to be reborn into the Pure Land—is not the result of humble worship or the efficaciousness of rituals or even the renunciation of all worldly distractions, it is rather based on moral conduct in daily life, through acts of filial piety, loyalty, honesty, and humility—which are de facto Confucian values. These ‘Buddhicised’ Confucian values are propagated through various channels (online media, press, dharma talks etc.) and address specifically the sphere of family ethics. Hence, this paper aims at analysing Jingkong’s and Hwa Dzan’s construction of a Confucian-Buddhist discourse community by applying Michel Foucault’s theoretical concept of ‘discourse.’ It became apparent that Hwa Dzan’s propagation reflects a strong centripetal inclination towards the centre of authority (Jingkong), thus creating an exclusive discourse community, and Hwa Dzan’s incorporation of non-Buddhist scriptures reflects a relative openness towards other traditions when supporting certain aspects of their interpretation of the Dharma.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room F
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Family and Gender