Gendering Buddhism: The Miaoshan Legend Reconsidered
Buddhist studies has traditionally utilized androcentric and Eurocentric approaches to its analysis of Buddhism. As a result, normative Buddhism has been configured as primarily monastic and male and focused on canonical texts, while women's Buddhism is relegated to special studies. In the following pages, Wing examines how these assumptions are at play in the interpretation of the well-studied, popular, "canonical" myth of Miaoshan. She further explores the gender biases inherent in studies that attempt to correct androcentrism in Buddhist studies. By forming a theoretical matrix composed of feminist and colonial social critiques, the author hopes to reconfigure the ways in which Chinese women's narratives and women's Buddhist narratives are understood. She broadens the discussion of what is understood to be "Buddhist" and what is constructed as "special studies" within Buddhism, as well as expands the larger discourses on gender in studies on China. By using previous scholarship as a point of departure, Wing reexamines the analytical taxonomies used in Chinese religion, Chinese Buddhism, and women in China. She scrutinizes these analytical models by exploring their epistemological foundations, revealing how discourses on Chinese (Buddhist) women and female icons like Miaoshan have been shaped. Wing first investigates the dominant views on women in historical records and biographies, which were responding to the changing roles of women in the Song dynasty. She then shows how these themes are reflected or critiqued in the Miaoshan legend and reinterprets the themes' meanings.
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