The transformations of Baijie Shengfei : gender and ethnicity in Chinese religion
- The goddess Baijie is worshipped only in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Southwest China's Yunnan province, home to the Bai "nationality" (minzu). Most people today see Baijie as the widow martyr of a local ruler from the eighth century, but she first appears as a Buddhist goddess in scriptures of the Dali Kingdom (937-1253). In the Ming (1368-1644) a legend appears in which Baijie is the mother of Duan Siping, founder of the Dali Kingdom. Baijie's widow martyr identity finally emerges in the Ming and Qing (1644-1911). Today, Baijie is worshipped in her widow martyr form as a tutelary village deity throughout Dali Prefecture. This dissertation examines Baijie's transformations in relation to the themes of ethnicity and gender in the religious history of Dali. I argue that the changes in Baijie's identity reflect changes in the representation of ethnicity in Dali religion from the twelfth century to the present. Baijie's gendered symbolism, particularly in her later widow martyr form, additionally illuminates the intersections of ethnicity and gender in Dali religion. The Dali region, and Yunnan as a whole, has long fallen just inside or outside the sphere of Chinese state control. Despite Dali's proximity to India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia, historical records strongly suggest that Dali elites looked to China for their systems of writing, government, and to some extent, religion. Baijie's transformations show how religious symbols reflected and shaped Dali elites' self-representation in relation to Chinese culture and the Chinese state. The first two chapters provide background by examining issues of religion and ethnicity in the independent Nanzhao (649-903) and Dali kingdoms. Chapters three through five cover Baijie's first three identities of Buddhist goddess, king's mother, and widow martyr from the Dali kingdom through the Qing dynasty. Chapter six looks at contemporary Baijie worship and is based primarily on field research conducted in Dali in 2007-08.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Bryson, Megan Culbertson
|Stanford University, Department of Religious Studies.
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of Religious Studies.
|Ph.D. Stanford University 2010
- © 2010 by Megan Culbertson Bryson
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