Religion and Biography in China and Tibet (Hardback)

by Benjamin Penny

Format: Hardback 288 pages

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The Chinese and Tibetan traditions value biography as a primary historiographical and literary genre, yet the study of religious biographies in these traditions has been an area of relative neglect. In pre-modern China the biography is fundamental to historical writing - the role and shape of secular biographies was formed before the formation of Daoist sects and the entry of Buddhism from India. When these religions sought to remember, commemorate or publicise their notable figures a pre-existing biographical tradition formed the template on which they wrote - or overwrote - their own biographies. In Tibet, where Buddhism has been at the core of culture and politics for centuries, different but equally powerful models applied. Important in this context was the focus on incarnate lamas who, since they embodied the dharma, were by definition exemplary. Thus, in both religious traditions, the biographical form became a critical mode of writing. This volume of essays seeks to remedy this neglected area of research. The contributors, while concentrating on specific culturally and historically located religious production, take as their task the analysis of biographies as texts. In this way, the volume takes seriously the literary turn in historical and religious studies and applies some of its insights to an understudied but central corpus of material in Chinese and Tibetan religion.

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