Lu Zhang is a PhD candidate studying Chinese Buddhism in the Department of East Asian Studies. Her dissertation, titled “Presenting the Buddha: The ‘Sages and Worthies as Incarnations’ in Chan Historiographies in Song China,” examines historiographical works in Chinese Chan Buddhism from the 11th to 13th centuries, with a particular focus on a rarely noticed group of individuals who are considered earthly manifestations of Buddhist deities. Compiled into a specific section which features historical figures as incarnated Buddhist deities (abbreviated Incarnation section) in Chan historiographies, the individuals from diverse traditions such as Tiantai, Pure Land, and Daoism, are venerated as Buddhist ideals. Since historiographies in Chan Buddhism are customarily used for preserving genealogical information of Chan schools and essential teachings of Chan masters, the incorporation of the section introduced a remarkable change during this era. This project not only inspires us to reflect on the value and function of Chan historiographies, but also extends the existing scholarship on the study of Song Buddhism by thoroughly examining the Incarnation section as an important yet undervalued social indicator of the development of Buddhism.
Sunday, August 22, 2021