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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Encounters with Numinous: On the Crossing Incarnations in Lüxiang Gantong Zhuan

Vol. 43 No. 1   03/2013    


Encounters with Numinous: On the Crossing Incarnations in Lüxiang Gantong Zhuan


Liu, Yuan-ju  









Key words

Daoxuan 道宣, characteristics of the precepts, penetrating sensitivity, revelation, store consciousness, narrative  


        Lüxiang Gantong Zhuan 律相感通傳 is deserving of study not only because of its familiar supernatural stories but also—and more importantly—because of its new content and its new interpretation of the Buddhist shenshi 神識, or store consciousness, and multi-incarnation, two religious concepts popular with subsequent generations. It is believed that Daoxuan 道宣 wrote Lüxiang Gantong Zhuan not long before his death, but the authorship of the text remains uncertain to this day. The text begins with the stories of Su Shao 蘇韶’s visitation and Jiang Mi 江泌’s daughter, who could chant sūtras as illustrations of incarnated store consciousness. Dialogues between the human narrator and the immortals are then employed to recount the stories of how Lu Xuanchang 陸玄暢 and other ancient immortals ascended to heaven and how they protected the dharma. These stories dispel the myths that Buddhist teachings did not exist in ancient China, that Buddhism did not accord with Chinese customs, and that Buddhism only started to flourish in the Jin Dynasty. To reconstruct Chinese Buddhism’s historicity and continuity in China, the legends of how Kumārajīve translated the sūtras since Vipaśyin 毘婆尸佛 are also presented.

        The revelation symbolism in Lüxiang Gantong Zhuan is both significant in the history of Buddhism and in the history of Chinese literature, especially in the context of a rewriting of the history of Chinese literature. The reason is that the text turns away from the traditional perspective of Chinese narrative, usually third-person omniscient, and adopts a polyphonic narration to create three historical Daoxuans instead. These Daoxuans are: the Daoxuan who was a scholar and the observer of the Vinaya, the Daoxuan who was Shenyou 僧祐’s incarnation and a protector of Buddhism, and, lastly, the Daoxuan who was dying but was still clear in his mind. By intermingling narration and direct representation such as dialogue, the text transforms Buddhist ideas such as shen xin yi , and shi  into concrete story forms, subverting the past academic view of ancient Chinese narratology as being too simplistic and monotonous.



Author: Liu, Yuan-ju
Genre: Article
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