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Good Karmic Connections: Buddhist Mothers in Tang China

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This essay examines the women's role in Chinese Buddhism through a close reading of epitaphs from the Tang dynasty (618-907). During this period, more than ever before, the religion became instrumental in the development of mothers' identity and in the conceptualization of ideal maternal virtues. According to many Tang dynasty epitaphs (muzhi ming), it would appear that children of Buddhist mothers largely complied with their mothers' desire to leave the household life or to be cremated rather than buried after her death. They were also much more likely than children of Buddhist fathers to become Buddhist believers themselves. What these epitaphs show is that Tang mothers played a vital role in the continuing sinification of Buddhism through the spread of religious devotion and practice in the domestic sphere.

Affiliations: 1: California State University, Los Angeles


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