In Chinese legend, the princess Miaoshan defied her father by refusing to marry, and pursued her austere religious vocation to the death, but returned to life to be his saviour and the saviour of all mankind. The story is inseparable from the female bodhisattva Guanyin, whose cult dominated religious life at all levels in traditional China and is still powerful in rural China today. Miaoshan herself became a lasting symbol of the tension in women's lives betweenindividual spiritual fulfilment and the imperatives of family duty. The previous edition of this book was the first full monograph on the subject. It deals with the story's background, early history, and more developed later versions, bringing much of this material to the attention of modern readers for the first time. It analyses the basic sources, many of them in Buddhist scripture, and the overall pattern of development. It finally offers a range of interpretations which discover here myths of religious celibacy, of filial piety, and of ritual salvation ofthe dead. The legend of Miaoshan spans the uncertain boundaries between Chinese popular literature, theatre, and religion, and this book directly addresses students of those fields. But it holds a larger significance for those interested in the position of women in traditional society, and students of comparative literature and folklore will find here a version of the 'King Lear' story. This new edition takes account of epigraphical evidence, discovered and accessed since the time of first publication, which enriches and refines the discussion. This and other additional evidence, introduced for the sake of a more complete picture, leave the argument and conclusions of the original study still essentially intact.
- Publication Date:
- 19 / 02 / 2004