Complicating Canonical Constructions: What Female Hell-Returners Say About Buddhist Gender Discourse




Hauer, Genevieve

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Based on a historical examination of the themes of transformation, filial piety, and the apparent female-focus present in Chinese female Hell-returner baojuan, this thesis argues that these narratives further complicate the already competing and contradictory discourses of gender inherent to Buddhist literature. While there has been widespread scholarship on the Hell-returner Mulian, a filial son and Buddhist monk who travels to Hell in order to save his mother, Chinese Buddhist Studies has largely overlooked three women in the realm of Hell-returner narratives: Dizang, Guanyin, and Woman Huang. In putting these lived religious texts in dialogue with canon, this not only places the traditionally-unheard voices of lay practitioners in regard with those of the religious elite, but also allow scholars to more fully grasp the complicated discourse on gender. This thesis therefore examines these three narratives in an attempt to not only gain a better understanding of Chinese Buddhist views regarding gender but also to gain insight into the historic lives of women in China.



Buddhist Hell, Buddhism, Hell-returners, female Hell-returners, gender, Honors College


Hauer, G. (2022). Complicating canonical constructions: What female hell-returners say about Buddhist gender discourse (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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