Buddhist Preaching Culture in Medieval China: Sutra Lecture Texts and Performance


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




My dissertation examines "popular lectures" on Buddhist scriptures performed by preaching monks to propagate Buddhist teachings to the general public during the seventh to tenth centuries in China. The emergence and popularization of Buddhism in China are often understood via studies of translation and commentaries, but I argue that preaching played a key role in introducing Buddhist ideas to the laity. I situate popular sutra lectures within their textual, ritual, and social contexts by closely reading “sutra lecture texts” from Dunhuang manuscripts, along with canonical texts, anecdotes, and archaeological materials. By considering both intertextual and performative dimensions of popular lectures, I demonstrate how preaching served a range of functions from entertainment to education.