China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: This panel investigates the inextricable connections between religion and narrative literature concerning the Daoist, Buddhist, and Catholic traditions in premodern China. With case studies from the early medieval to the late imperial periods, the panel explores the intersections between oral transmission and textual development, orthodox and marginal forms of narrative, religious culture and secular trends, doctrinal discourses and lay practices, as well as proselytizing storytellers and their communities. Specifically, Jonathan Pettit triangulates the proto-novel Inner Traditions of Han Emperor Wu (Han Wudi neizhuai) and hagiographies written by Upper Clarity Daoists to reveal the medieval debates underlying textual borrowing through porous generic boundaries. With a paratextual analysis of Buddhist miracle tales compiled by the layman Tang Lin (ca. 602–ca. 661), Manling Luo examines his social networks as a way to understand the development of a “culture of informal storytelling” in tandem with religious culture in the Tang dynasty. Unpacking the narrative strategies of an eighth-century entombed epitaph for a Buddhist laywoman, Jessey Choo illustrates how the Mahayana discourse on lay practice met family mythmaking in the production of life stories. Focusing on The Mirror for Exhortation of Self-cultivation (Lixiu yijian), Song Gang studies how the Christian compiler Li Jiugong (d. 1681) combined Catholic doctrinal concerns and local inter-religious elements to promote Christian “miracles,” build networks, and compete with opponents. These interdisciplinary studies offer insights into the divergent yet interconnected developments of religious and literary traditions in premodern China.
Paper Presenter: Jonathan Pettit – University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Paper Presenter: Manling Luo – Indiana University
Paper Presenter: Jessey Choo – Rutgers University
Paper Presenter: Gang Song – University of Hong Kong