Youteng Bi Wins Lingyin Buddhist Studies Doctoral Fellowship

May 14, 2021

Youteng Bi is currently a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. Her research project examines a 17th-century Buddhist reading guide, Yuezang Zhijin 閱藏知津 (Guide to Reading the Tripitaka), written by Ouyi Zhixu 藕益智旭. Previous scholarship has explored its bibliographical value as a Buddhist catalog. However, the context of its composition and its significance in the 17th-century Buddhist revival has not been fully studied. Moreover, often translated as catalog, the Chinese mulu 目錄 differs from a dry list of books and often contains more sophisticated organizational structures as well as exegetical commentary for each entry. In this sense, Chinese Buddhist mulu had more ideological significance than the straight-forward information retrieval systems that characterize current library catalogs. Furthermore, reading, disseminating, and writing Buddhist texts became a prevalent form of spiritual practice among the literati to express aesthetic taste and disposition. This project will examine the content and the structural scheme of Yuezang Zhijin and situate its composition in the social and cultural context of 17th-century China. Instead of being a mere list of book titles for cataloging purposes, Yuezang Zhijin is closer to an encyclopedic work on Buddhist scriptures or an educational book, in the modern sense, for common readers in the 17th century. Therefore, the study on Yuezang Zhijin will also be valuable for rethinking the concept of “textual modernity” in East Asia.