Legitimizing buddhism through the body. On robe, posture and tonsure in early medieval China's buddhist communities

Start - End 
2022 - 2026 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Medieval Chinese Buddhism
Body practice controversies
Body studies
Hong ming ji
Buddhist apologetic literature



This research project strives to fill the research gaps concerning three bodily-related controversies (baring the right shoulder, sitting in a leisurely position while eating, and shaving the hair) discussed inside Buddhist apologetic literature as soon as Indian customs began spreading to China. Starting from the question of why specifically these three practices were so harshly contested by the Chinese secular society, the project aims to understand how Buddhists defended these practices, employing them as trigger topics for the development of new theoretical discourses aimed at legitimizing the introduction of Buddhism in China. For this purpose, two layers of investigations will be carried out. Firstly, the discussions will be historically and philologically contextualized by means of a thorough investigation of several parallel sources, which will include monastic regulations and their commentaries, biographies, historiographical works, pilgrim’s travel accounts as well as Daoist and Confucian texts, given the several quotations to Chinese classic philosophy. The second investigation layer will aim to comprehend to what extent bodily issues mattered during the process that witnessed Buddhists integrating themselves into Chinese society by bringing into light the several implications that the semantics of bodily gestures involved in the early medieval scenario.




Phd Student(s)