Remaking the Image: Discourses of Buddhist Icon Worship in Medieval China, ca. 300 to 850 CE


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


This dissertation explores ways in which Chinese intellectuals criticized and defended the Buddhist practice of icon worship from the fourth through the mid-ninth centuries. Analyzing logical and rhetorical tactics adopted by proponents and opponents of the Buddhist image cult, this study examines how the controversies over image worship reflected pre-Buddhist Chinese theories of the image and ritual, and permeated though the broader discussion of Buddhist icon worship. By doing so, the dissertation demonstrates that the acceptance of Buddhist icon worship into Chinese ritual culture was a result of constant contestation and negotiation among learned circles whose voices actively partook in the process of determining a proper form of religion for the state.