Buddhism Unfolded: Sung Leporello Liturgies from Middle to Modern Cambodia


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


Liturgical manuscripts illuminate how Buddhists at particular historical moments wove together the words of their sacred texts into living rituals. By focusing on leporello, or folded-paper, manuscripts featuring Khmer, Pali, and Thai texts popular in Late Middle Cambodia (c. 1650–1863) that continue to be sung today in a richly expressive style, this dissertation explores the liturgical, literary, and soteriological sensibilities of an era from which scant historical records survive. Leporello manuscripts, by virtue of their capacity to bring together various liturgical texts and annotate them with paratextual metadata, reveal the process by which Buddhist texts become Buddhist sounds in Cambodia. They shed light on how local genres of sung texts such as vows, paeans, manuals, sermons, incantations, translations, and anthologies work in concert for end-of-life rites and Buddha-image consecrations, and how these genres in turn articulate connections between Cambodian and Siamese liturgical repertoires from the late-seventeenth to mid-twentieth centuries.