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Buddhist Ritual in the Song

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Chapter Summary

The rise of the Song dynasty brought significant changes to the Buddhist clergy in China, its institutions, and the patterns by which Buddhist traditions networked into local communities. With them came distinctive developments in ritual form and repertoire. Some of these ritual forms involved the redeployment of programs that had an established presence from bygone eras, such as rites performed during the annual monastic rains retreat and on the occasion of major festivals, or the programs for intensive personal penance and contemplative retreat long featured in the Tiantai Buddhist tradition. Others betokened newer ritual syntheses that were directed to the shifting concerns of lay patrons and the Song populace at large. Such were the elaborate public rites—laden with vernacular elements—designed to intercede on behalf of local gods and the dead. Drawing on a range of genres, Buddhist and beyond, this chapter explores the landscape of Song Buddhist ritual, from its major sites, temporal cycles, and liturgical repertoire to its shared logics of ritual procedure and their resonance with vernacular religious narrative.



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