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RandallS

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Kuan-yin : the Chinese transformation of Avalokitesìvara
« on: September 05, 2013, 07:56:19 am »


Title: Kuan-yin : the Chinese transformation of Avalokitesìvara
Author(s): Chun-fang Yu
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: September 2000
ISBN: 023112029X
ISBN-13: 978-0231120296
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

[size=+1]Description:[/size]
By far one of the most important objects of worship in the Buddhist traditions, the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is regarded as the embodiment of compassion. He has been widely revered throughout the Buddhist countries of Asia since the early centuries of the Common Era. While he was closely identified with the royalty in South and Southeast Asia, and the Tibetans continue to this day to view the Dalai Lamas as his incarnations, in China he became a she -- Kuan-yin, the "Goddess of Mercy" -- and has a very different history. The causes and processes of this metamorphosis have perplexed Buddhist scholars for centuries.

In this groundbreaking, comprehensive study, Chün-fang Yü discusses this dramatic transformation of the (male) Indian bodhisattva Avalokitesvara into the (female) Chinese Kuan-yin -- from a relatively minor figure in the Buddha's retinue to a universal savior and one of the most popular deities in Chinese religion.

Focusing on the various media through which the feminine Kuan-yin became constructed and domesticated in China, Yü thoroughly examines Buddhist scriptures, miracle stories, pilgrimages, popular literature, and monastic and local gazetteers -- as well as the changing iconography reflected in Kuan-yin's images and artistic representations -- to determine the role this material played in this amazing transformation. The book eloquently depicts the domestication of Kuan-yin as a case study of the indigenization of Buddhism in China and illuminates the ways this beloved deity has affected the lives of all Chinese people down the ages.

[size=+1]Special Notes:[/size]


[size=-1]Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from Amazon.com and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.[/size]

[size=+1]Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.[/size]
Randall
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beachglass

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Re: Kuan-yin : the Chinese transformation of Avalokitesìvara
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2013, 06:09:39 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;120903
Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.

Thanks!

So far I've only finished the preface and introduction. In the preface, Yu describes her reasons for undertaking the study of Avalokitesvara's evolution into Kuan-yin, including a personal story where her grandmother sees a vision of Kuan-yin that warns the family away from a terrible boat accident.

The introduction includes a description of Avalokitesvara as known in India, followed by a short history of Chinese Buddhism. I did wish as I was reading this that I had more than a passing familiarity with the history - since that could fill multiple volumes on its own, I felt like I was getting a fast gloss over a very deep topic, rather than the quick refresher that a more familiar reader might have gotten. But so far, my lack of historical knowledge here has not impeded my understanding of Yu's arguments (though there has been plenty of flipping back and forth and re-reading!).

Yu closes the introduction with a description of her methodology and how she developed her approach, as well as an overview of the topics discussed.

I'm currently working through the first chapter, "Scriptural Sources for the Cult of Kuan-yin," and will post my thoughts on that soon.

Has anyone else read this book?
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 06:10:24 pm by beachglass »
"The further we go, and older we grow, the more we know, the less we show."  ~ Robert Smith

beachglass

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Re: Kuan-yin : the Chinese transformation of Avalokitesìvara
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2013, 06:51:14 pm »
Quote from: beachglass;120960
I'm currently working through the first chapter, "Scriptural Sources for the Cult of Kuan-yin," and will post my thoughts on that soon.


Back from temporary distraction by a few other books. :)  I found an little interesting bit in the second chapter that I wanted to post (what I called the first chapter in my earlier post is technically chapter 2, since the introduction is chapter 1).

Part of this chapter is a discussion of the translation of the name Avalokitesvara, and why Kuan-yin or Kuan-shi-yin was eventually favored. Yu includes the following excerpt, which I rather liked:

Quote
In his commentary on the Lotus, Fa-yün states, “Kuan-shih-yin may be named four ways. The first is Kuan-shih-yin, which means that he delivers by perceiving the sounds of the world. The second is Kuan-shih-shen [body], which means that he delivers by perceiving the bodily karma of the sentient beings. The third is Kuan-shih-i [intentions], which means that he delivers by perceiving the mental karma of the sentient beings. The fourth is Kuan-shih-yeh [karma], which contains the previous three names. If you ask me why we only use the name Kuan-shih-yin, my answer is that to create karma by speech is easy, but to do good with regard to body and intention is hard. Moreover, in this Sahā world of ours, we usually worship the Buddha with our voices. That is why Kuan-shih-yin becomes the established name” (HTC 42:381a).

Yu, Chun-fang (2000-10-06). Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara (Kindle Locations 1170-1176). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.


I bolded the end there, which I think is probably even more applicable today where many, many more people have the opportunity to 'speak' (write) and 'listen' (read) online.  I know I often find reading/writing/study comes more easily than meditation and practice.  So by extension, the deity that hears you makes intuitive sense, I think.

I'm actually a bit further ahead in the book and finding it very good overall.  I promise not to write a book report on every chapter! But so far, recommended!
"The further we go, and older we grow, the more we know, the less we show."  ~ Robert Smith

Ginko

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Re: Kuan-yin : the Chinese transformation of Avalokitesìvara
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2013, 12:15:44 am »
Quote from: beachglass;122392
Back from temporary distraction by a few other books. :)  I found an little interesting bit in the second chapter that I wanted to post (what I called the first chapter in my earlier post is technically chapter 2, since the introduction is chapter 1).

Part of this chapter is a discussion of the translation of the name Avalokitesvara, and why Kuan-yin or Kuan-shi-yin was eventually favored. Yu includes the following excerpt, which I rather liked:



I bolded the end there, which I think is probably even more applicable today where many, many more people have the opportunity to 'speak' (write) and 'listen' (read) online.  I know I often find reading/writing/study comes more easily than meditation and practice.  So by extension, the deity that hears you makes intuitive sense, I think.

I'm actually a bit further ahead in the book and finding it very good overall.  I promise not to write a book report on every chapter! But so far, recommended!

 
Don't stop on my account, better than Cliff Notes!  :)
Ginko

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