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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

[Dissertation] Learning from Maoshan: Temple Construction in Early Medieval China

Author: 
Pettit, J. E. E..

School: 
Indiana University


Publication Year: 
2013

Advisers: 
Eno, Robert & Stalnaker, Aaron

Abstract:

Maoshan, a range of mountains southeast of Nanjing, has been home to one of China's most influential Daoist temples. One of Maoshan's most famous patriarchs was Tao Hongjing (456-536 CE), a polymath whose wide range of interests included alchemy, genealogy, mapmaking, herbal medicine, and Daoist ritual. Scholarship on Tao has focused on his editorial work of the Shangqing Revelations, an assortment of mid-fourth-century scriptures written at Maoshan. I build on these earlier studies by demonstrating that Tao promoted the Shangqing Revelations as a prospectus for prospective clients interested in building temple compounds. I first study Tao's commentary to the Shangqing Revelations in which Tao persuaded his principal sponsor, Liang Emperor Wu, to invest in temple construction at Maoshan. I argue that Tao interpreted the revelations as evidence that his sponsor's salvation was predicated, at least in part, on the completion of a temple compound. I further show that Tao's skills as an excavator and architect of temples helped justify his leadership over this burgeoning institution.

In the middle chapters of this study, I analyze the ways in which Tao's persona as a "temple builder" would likely have been received by potential clients. The methodology of these chapters is explicitly comparative: I examine hagiographies, scriptures, and inscriptions composed in both early imperial and medieval China. I rely heavily on narratives written in both Buddhist and Daoist contexts. This disparate group of texts illustrates the history that made Tao's status as a temple developer a recognizable social role by his era. It further establishes that Tao's temple building was one expression of a cultural practice that transcended doctrinal and geographic boundaries.

In the final chapter, I examine Tao's construction at Maoshan during his post-515 abbacy, a period when he remade Maoshan into a Buddhist-Daoist ritual site. While Tao might have altered the doctrinal symbols of his temple, his representation of his abbotship remained consistent with his earlier writings. Tao's writings on the cooperation between clerics and sponsors, I conclude, formed a template for later religious entrepreneurs at Maoshan.


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