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By Robert Ford Campany

Honorable point out, Joseph Levenson Prize (pre-1900 category), Association for Asian Studies

By the center of the 3rd century B.C.E. in China there have been people who sought to develop into transcendents (xian)―deathless, godlike beings endowed with supernormal powers. This quest for transcendence turned a big type of spiritual expression and helped lay the root on which the 1st Daoist faith was once equipped. either xian and people who aspired to this exalted prestige within the centuries prime as much as 350 C.E. have routinely been portrayed as secretive and hermit-like figures. This groundbreaking research bargains a really varied view of xian-seekers in past due classical and early medieval China. It means that transcendence didn't contain a withdrawal from society yet particularly can be visible as a non secular function located between different social roles and conceived not like them. Robert Campany argues that the much-discussed secrecy surrounding ascetic disciplines was once really one very important means during which practitioners offered themselves to others. He contends, furthermore, that many adepts weren't socially remoted in any respect yet have been a lot wanted for his or her strength to heal the in poor health, divine the long run, and narrate their unique experiences.

The e-book strikes from an outline of the jobs of xian and xian-seekers to an account of the way members stuffed those roles, no matter if through their very own employer or via others’―or, usually, by means of either. Campany summarizes the repertoire of beneficial properties that constituted xian roles and offers an in depth instance of what analyses of these cultural repertoires seem like. He charts the capabilities of a simple dialectic within the self-presentations of adepts and examines their narratives and family members with others, together with relations and officers. ultimately, he appears at hagiographies as makes an attempt to cajole readers as to the identities and reputations of earlier participants. His interpretation of those tales permits us to work out how reputations have been formed or even co-opted―sometimes relatively surprisingly―into the ranks of xian.

Making Transcendents offers a nuanced dialogue that pulls on a worldly take hold of of various theoretical assets whereas being completely grounded in conventional chinese language hagiographical, historiographical, and scriptural texts. the image it provides of the search for transcendence as a social phenomenon in early medieval China is unique and provocative, as is the paradigm it deals for knowing the jobs of holy individuals in different societies.

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Extra resources for Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China

Example text

It does, surely, to the extent that the preserved vita that has come down to us represents only one of a theoretically infinite number of possible ways of telling the story of the holy person’s life, highlighting certain facets while obscuring others. But this much is true of any story of anything. ) Weinstein and Bell continue: The hagiographer’s main contribution was to shape the received material according to the current, partly implicit, pressures of the saint-making process, including the tastes of his bishop, the interests of his house or order, political interests, and, not least, the expectations of local devotees, both clerical and lay.

Compare also the statement by Peter Brown that “the very act of thought contains a strong narrative element” (“Enjoying the Saints in Late Antiquity,” 19) and that by L. Hudson: “Asleep and awake it is just the same: we are telling ourselves stories all the time” (quoted in Carrithers, The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka, 86; and in P. 69). 39. This is similar to the view of narrative in life and in history articulated by Paul Ricoeur and summarized (apparently not with assent) by Hayden White in The Content of the Form, 172–181.

By juxtaposing texts with different persuasive agendas and viewpoints—some sympathetic, some hostile—as they report the same sorts of scenes, settings, patterns of relationship and action (or even, in a few cases, the same “event” or figure), a sort of evidential triangulation becomes possible. 67 The Making of Transcendents This is a book about the making of xian. To say this is to point at once toward three possible, seemingly distinct lines of inquiry. Studying the making of xian might involve studying the ascetic disciplines, imbricated as they were with certain cosmological and physiological assumptions, by which practitioners gradually and arduously made themselves into xian.

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