Rethinking Women’s Piety towards Buddhism: The Case of Song Elite Families, Part II
This is the second part of my article on women's piety towards Buddhism in Song times. In this portion of my article, I discuss seventy-four cases of women’s worship and practice of Buddhism, focusing on the religious activities of the elite-family women who lived during the Northern-and-Southern Song transition, when the Northern Song capital, Kaifeng, was laid siege by the Jurchens, and during the Southern Song period. This discussion, which adds sixty-eight cases to the six cases discussed in the “Pious Wives” section of Ebrey’s book, is offered to further support my argument for the existence of diverse practices of Buddhism among Song women. While showing the similarities and continuities that exist between the practices found in the two time periods demarcated by the shift of the political and economic center from the north to the south, I also note the changes that occurred. My discussion proves that the growing popularity of certain Buddhist practices occurred hand-in-hand with the shift of the Buddhist center from the north to the south. These continuities and subsequent changes of practices can be also be shown by using the same analytical schema I used in the first part of this article: The five paramitas. The results of my analysis show that of the seventy-four women concerned, 16% were involved in bushi (giving; dāna), 22% in chijie, (morality; śīla), 90% in jingjin (vigor; vīrya), 13% in chanding (meditation; dhyāna), and 20% demonstrated zhihui (wisdom; prajñā). While the results do not fully illustrate the range of devotion, this characterization of women’s piety towards and practices of Buddhism suggests the existence of different levels of religious piety demonstrated by the middle- and upper-class women. This reaffirms my earlier argument that the variegated colors of women’s heterogeneous practices of Buddhism are due largely to the significant amount of religious autonomy that Song women were able to enjoy while fulfilling their roles as daughters and wives in Confucian, or Buddhist families.
Women’s piety; Northern-and-Southern Song transition; Southern Song; five Paramitas; religious autonomy