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Good Career Moves: Life Stories of Daoist Nuns of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

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Daoist monasticism rose to prominence in China during the late twelfth and the mid-thirteenth centuries amid the turmoil of war and dynastic change. A particular Daoist monastic order emerged, called Quanzhen or 'Complete Perfection', which became popular and spread throughout China. A number of commemorative stone steles from the monasteries of the period have been preserved, and serve as the main sources for this article. The steles record the religious activities and experiences of female practitioners, some of whom rose to leading positions, as founders, abbesses, and managers of flourishing monasteries. The funding for these monasteries came from the donations of the lay followers whom they inspired. Within the monastic universe, they trained and ordained the next generation of clerics, and provided ritual services to the lay community as well. Toward the end of their careers, abbesses choose their successors from among their female disciples, and a lineage based on the master-disciple relationship took shape.

Affiliations: 1: Rutgers University


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