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Concepts Of The Netherworld And Modifications In The Chinese Articulation Of Karma

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Chapter Summary

Scholars have typically characterized the historical development of the Chinese netherworld as bifurcated by the arrival of Buddhism in China. The introduction of Buddhism did indeed furnish new ideas of the death, postmortem destinations, and the body, but these concepts largely took on their significance insofar as they dealt with the concerns of the living. This chapter focuses on a brief survey of the afterlife in ancient China illustrating the concerns of the living, which in turn allows to chart how Buddhism furnished additional strategies to navigate indigenous social and conceptual anxieties of death and the beyond. Although chengfu differed from Buddhist karma in the scope of its responsibility, the profound persistence of a deeply ingrained concern for family, community, and state transfigured the discourses of karma in Chinese Buddhism into beliefs and cultic practices of karma that brought to the forefront the creation and transference of merit.

Keywords: Buddhist karma; Chinese netherworld



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