Becoming Guanyin

Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press, 2020)

Author Yuhang Li discusses the roles of gender and material culture in worshiping the bodhisattva Guanyin between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries in China.

Listen to an interview with Yuhang Li about Becoming Guanyin on the New Books Network podcast.

key themes
  • Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism
  • Gender and identity
  • Material culture
  • Sensory culture and religious practice
  • Mimetic devotion and bodily practice
  • Embroidery, jewelry, and women’s devotional objects
further reading
  • Bingenheimer, Marcus.  Island of Guanyin: Mount Putuo and its Gazetteers. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Bray, Francesca. Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Cabezόn, Ignacio José. “Mother Wisdom, Father Love: Gender-based Imagery in Mahāyāna Buddhist Thought,” in Ignacio Jose Cabezόn ed., Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. 181-214.
  • Clunas, Craig. Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007.
  • Faure, Bernard. The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity and Gender. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Grant, Beata. Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-century China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009.
  • Gyatso, Janet. “Sex,” in Donald S. Lopez Jr. ed. Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. 271-291.
  • Haufler (Weidner), Marsha. “Images of the Nine-Lotus Bodhisattva and the Wanli Empress Dowager.” Chungguksa yongu (The Journal of Chinese Historical Researches), no.35, April 30 (2005): 245-278.
  • ______.Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese Women Artists: 1300-1912. Indianapolis: the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1988.
  • Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Ko, Dorothy. The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China. Seattle: University of Washing Press, 2017.
  • ______. Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth Century. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.
  • Lai Yu-Chih, Gao Yanyi (Dorothy Ko), Ruan Yuan (Aida Yuen Wong) eds. Kanjian yu chupeng xingbie: Jinxiandai Zhongguo yishushi xin shiye 看見與觸碰性別:近現代中國藝術史新視野 (Seeing and Touching Gender: New Perspectives on Modern Chinese Art). Taipei: Rock Publishing, 2020.
  • Laing, Johnston Ellen. “Wives, Daughters and Lovers: Three Ming Dynasty Painters,” in Marsha Haufler [Weidner] et al., eds., Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese Women Artists 1300-1912. Indianapolis, Ind.: The Indianapolis Museum of Art and Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1988. 31-63.
  • Lee, Hui-shu. Empress, Art and Agency in Song Dynasty China. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010. 
  • Lee Yu-min 李玉珉.  Guanyin tezhan 觀音特展 (Visions of Compassion: Images of Kuan-yin in Chinese Art). Taibei: Guoli gugong bowuyuan, 2000.
  • Luk Yu-Ping. “Qing Empresses as Religious Patrons and Practitioners,” in Daisy Yiyou Wang and Jan Stuart eds., Empresses of China’s Forbidden City: 1644-1912. Salem: Peabody Essex Museum and Washington DC: Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution, 2018. 110-127.
  • Mann, Susan. Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
  • Murray, Julia. “Didactic Art for Women: The Ladies Classic of Filial Piety,” In Flowering in the Shadows: Women in the History of Chinese and Japanese Painting. Ed. Marsha Weidner. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1990. 27- 53.
  • Paul, Diana. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in Mahāyāna Tradition. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.
  • Promey, Sally M. ed. Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice. New   Heaven and London: Yale University Press, 2014.
  • Rambelli, Fabio. Buddhist Materiality: A Cultural History of Objects in Japanese Buddhism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.
  • Sheng, Angela. “Women’s Work, Virtue, and Space: Change from Early to Late Imperial China.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, Issue 36. 1 (January 2012): 9-38.
  • Wang, Eugene Y. “Sound Observer and Ways of Representing Presences,” in Robert Maniura and Rupert Shepherd eds. Presence: the Inherence of Prototype within Images and Other Objects.  Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006. 259-271.
  • Wong, Dorothy.  “Women as Buddhist Art Patrons during the Northern and SouthernDynasties,” in Wu Hung ed., Between Han and Tang: Religious Art and Archaeology in a Transformative Period, vol.1. Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2000, 535-566.
  • Wu Hung (巫鸿). Zhongguo huihua zhong de nüxing kongjian中国绘画中的「女性空间」(Feminine Space in Chinese Painting). Beijing: Shenghuo, dushu, xinzhi sanlian shudian, 2019.
  • Yü, Chün-fang. Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokiteśvara. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
  • Yu, Jimmy. Sanctity and Self-Inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions, 1500-1700. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Exhibitions and Collections


What the Emperor Built

What the Emperor Built: Architecture and Empire in the Early Ming (University of Washington Press, 2020)

Author Aurelia Campbell discusses imperial and temple architecture built under the Yongle emperor in the early fifteenth century.

key themes
  • Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism
  • Material culture
  • Imperial art, politics, and the court
  • Architecture, space, and the built environment
further reading
  • Campbell, Aurelia. “The Hall of Supreme Harmony as a Simulacrum of Ming Dynasty Construction.” In The Ming World, edited by Kenneth Swope, 221-240. New York: Routledge Press, 2019.
  • Chan, Hok-Lam, Legends of the Building of Old Peking. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2008.
  • Clunas, Craig and Jessica Harrison-Hall, eds. Ming: 50 Years that Changed China. London: The British Museum Press, 2014.
  • Craig Clunas, Jessica Harrison-Hall, and Yu-ping Luk, eds. Ming Courts and Contacts (1400-1450). London: The British Museum Press, 2016.
  • Yu Zhouyun. Palaces of the Forbidden City. New York, NY: Viking, 1984.
  • Zhang, Fan Jeremy, ed. Royal Taste: The Art of the Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China. New York: Scala Arts and Heritage Publishers, 2015.
  • Zhu, Jianfei. Chinese Spatial Strategies: Imperial Beijing, 1420-1911. London; New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.
Exhibitions and Collections

Transcending Patterns

Transcending Patterns: Silk Road Cultural and Artistic Interactions through Central Asian Textiles (University of Hawaii Press, 2019)

Author Mariachiara Gasparini discusses textile history across and beyond the Silk Road between the 7th to 14th centuries.

key themes
  • Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism
  • Material culture
  • Art market and commerce
  • Transcultural and transnational approaches
  • Silk Road studies