Buddhism and Tales of the Supernatural in Early Medieval China

Buddhism and Tales of the Supernatural in Early Medieval ChinaA Study of Liu Yiqing’s (403–444) Youming lu

Zhenjun Zhang

This book demonstrates the historical changes in early medieval China as seen in the tales of the supernatural—thematic transformation from traditional demonic retribution to Karmic retribution, from indigenous Chinese netherworld to Buddhist concepts of hell, and from the traditional Chinese saviour to a new saviour, Buddha. It also examines Buddhist imagery and the flourish of new motifs in the fantastic dreamworld and their relationship with Buddhism. This study relates the Youming lu to the development of popular Chinese Buddhist beliefs, attempting to single out ideas that differ from the beliefs found in Buddhist scriptures as well as miraculous tales written especially to promote Buddhism

A tale from the book.

Tou feng 頭風 (Headache)

不可治也。’ [Lei shuo 11.189a]

Yang Hu (221–278) suffered from headaches, and [someone] had him treated. Hu said, ‘On the third day after I was born, my head was facing the northern door. Feeling the wind blow against [my head], I worried about it very much. It was only that I could not speak. Since the origin of the illness is far away, it is impossible to be cured.’

The Youming lu is a work that demonstrates Buddhist influence as it began to appear in Chinese narrative on a relatively large scale. Many aspects of Buddhism, such as karmic retribution, Buddhist concepts of hell, and the Buddha as a saviour, appear for the first time in this collection, yet because it is a heterogeneous compilation composed in the early stage of Buddhist influence on Chinese literature, some indigenous themes remain in their original states, while others have been modified to reflect Buddhist assumptions. This continuity mingled with metamorphosis provides us with a vivid picture of some of the historical changes that occurred in the development of medieval Chinese literature and culture.


Biographical note

Zhenjun Zhang, PhD (2007), University of Wisconsin, is Associate Professor of St. Lawrence University. He is the author of several books on Chinese literature and culture, including Traditional Fiction and Chinese Culture (Guangxi Normal University Press, 1996).

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You can buy Buddhism and Tales of the Supernatural in Early Medieval China from:

BRILL: Buddhism and Tales of the Supernatural in Early Medieval China, Zhenjun Zhang, ISBN13: 9789004277274, Hardback, 2014. €114,00, US$148.00

Book Depository: Buddhism and Tales of the Supernatural in Early Medieval China with free world shipping.

Categories: Biography, Book reviews, History

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1 reply

  1. Buddhism and medievalism. What to ask more.


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