Hughes, April D.
Teiser, Stephen F.
This dissertation examines Chinese apocalypticism from the end of the third century to the middle of the eighth century. It centers on apocalyptic understandings of the future descent of two savior figures, the Buddha Maitreya and Prince Moonlight. Some scriptures predict that Maitreya will be the next Buddha in this world. Canonical scriptures place his arrival during an era of peace and prosperity, however, some non-canonical apocalyptic texts assert that his descent will occur during a time of chaos and destruction. In some texts, Prince Moonlight is depicted as an intermediary savior who comes prior to Maitreya's arrival, while other texts portray Prince Moonlight as a full-fledged apocalyptic savior whose arrival is associated with calamities.
This dissertation demonstrates that apocalyptic eschatology was central to medieval Chinese thought and was thus available for different social groups to appropriate for diverse and even contradictory purposes, such as to support political rebellion or to reinforce the dominance of the imperial state. This project examines a wide range of material including non-canonical apocalyptic scriptures, pre-modern Buddhist historiographical records, canonical prophecy scriptures, imperial historical records, and medieval mural paintings. Hence the project goes beyond prior studies by making use of canonical and non-canonical scriptures, together with visual evidence.
This study examines conceptions of kingship, salvation, ideal societies, cosmology and notions of time, as well as the relationship between religious and political perfection. Although this study focuses on ideas related to the end of the world that derive largely from Buddhist and to some extent Daoist traditions, this dissertation also raises questions regarding the study of apocalypticism that will be of interest to scholars of other Buddhist traditions as well as those focusing on utopian thought.