Personal Salvation and Filial Piety

Personal Salvation and Filial Piety: Two Precious Scroll Narratives of Guanyin and Her Acolytes

Translated and with an introduction by WILT L. IDEMA
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Personal Salvation and Filial Piety
    Book Description:

    The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was a handsome prince when he entered China. As Guanyin, the bodhisattva was venerated from the eleventh century onward in the shape of a beautiful woman who became a universal savior. Throughout the last millennium, the female Guanyin has enjoyed wide and fervid veneration throughout East Asia and has appeared as a major character in literature and legend. In one tale, Guanyin (as the princess Miaoshan) returns from the dead after being executed by the king, her father, for refusing to marry. The most popular version of this legend is The Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain (Xiangshan baojuan), a long narrative in prose and verse and a work of considerable literary merit. It emphasizes the conflict between father and daughter, in the course of which all conventional arguments against a religious lifestyle are paraded and rebutted. A lengthy description of Guanyin’s visit to the underworld, which focuses on the conflict between grace and justice, is also included. Personal Salvation and Filial Piety offers a complete and fully annotated translation of The Precious Scroll, based on a nineteenth-century edition. The translation is preceded by a substantial introduction that discusses the origin of the text and the genre to which it belongs and highlights the similarities and differences between the scroll and female saints’ lives from medieval Europe. There follows a translation of the much-shorter Precious Scroll of Good-in-Talent and Dragon Daughter, which provides a humorous account of how Guanyin acquired the three acolytes—Sudhana, Nagakanya, and a white parrot—who are often shown surrounding her in popular prints. As the first English-language translation of major "precious scrolls," Personal Salvation and Filial Piety will appeal to a wide range of readers—from scholars of Chinese literature to students of Buddhism. Beyond the field of East Asian studies, it will interest specialists in comparative religion and literature and feminist theologians. Because of its lively and moving narratives, the text is suitable for courses on popular Buddhist religiosity (particularly female religiosity) in Chinese society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6393-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-44)

    Even while the stern and majestic image of the Śākyamuni Buddha occupies the place of honor in every Buddhist temple throughout East Asia, among lay believers the veneration he receives pales in comparison to that offered to the bodhisattva Guanyin. If the Buddha holds out the elusive promise of nirvana to those who have chosen a monastic career, the bodhisattva is eager to come to the rescue of all those in need who appeal to her. The bodhisattva’s almost universal veneration is testified to both by the ubiquitous small statues on domestic altars and by the colossal images erected in...

  5. The Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain, Part 1
    (pp. 45-98)

    On the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the second year of the Chongning reign-period (1103), Chan master Puming of the Song dynasty (960–1278) was sitting alone in meditation in the Penance Hall at the Upper Tianzhu Monastery of Hangzhou.¹ In the light of the full moon he suddenly saw an old monk, who said to him: “You merely cultivate the Way of the Absolute Truth of the Unsurpassable Vehicle, forging connection solely with [those persons] of superior capacity. But how are you able to be of universal assistance? You should practice preaching on behalf of the Buddha....

  6. The Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain, Part 2
    (pp. 99-160)

    In the thirty-sixth year, ajiashenyear, of the reign-period Marvelous Splendor of Raised Forest, on the fifteenth day following the first day of the seventh month, ayisiday, we, imperial relatives and officials, respectfully have prepared the ritual pure wine and the appropriate fine foods, and make bold to offer sacrifice to HER HIGHNESS MARVELOUS GOODNESS while she is still alive. As our thoughts go out to Her Highness, tears of pain course down. Because of the measure of her Being she swallows emptiness; on her mind of No-being the moon is imprinted. Her behavior surpasses past and...

  7. The Precious Scroll of Good-in-Talent and Dragon Girl
    (pp. 161-190)

    We unroll and open this precious scroll, proclaim the true traces, The golden burner’s incense smoke spreads an auspicious aroma. Listen with pious reverence, you good men and faithful women: It dispels disaster, lengthens your life, and brings endless fortune.

    The story of this precious scroll took place during the Qianfu reignperiod (874–879) of the Tang dynasty (618–906). In the Immortal Peach village of Hanyang prefecture of the Huguang area lived a certain grand historian named Chen Debao. His office was of the highest rank, his position exceeded that of all other officials, and he was in charge...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 191-216)
  9. Glossary
    (pp. 217-220)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-227)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 228-230)