Theses Doctoral

Dealing with Childbirth in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: Discourses and Practices

Lin, Hsin-Yi

In Buddhism birth is regarded as the origin of suffering and impurity, whereas it also forms the physical basis indispensible for seeking and attaining awakening. Birth is both the starting points of incuring defilement and achieving sanctity. Pointing out this paradox on birth in Buddhism and situating the issue within the context of Chinese religion and history, this dissertation extensively investigates Buddhist discourses and practices of reproduction in medieval China. It anwsers how Buddhist discourses and practices of childbirth were transmitted, transformed, and applied in medieval China, and how they interacted with indigenous healing resources and practices in both Chinese religious and medical realms. Through examining the primary sources such as the excavated Day Books (Chapter One), Buddhist hagiographies (Chapter Two), Buddhist obstetric and embryological discourses (Chapter Three and Four) and healing resources preserved in Tripiṭaka and Dunhuang manuscripts, Dunhuang transformation texts and tableaux, and miracle tales and anecdote literature (Chapter Four and Five), I argue that not only was there a paradoxical dualism at the heart of Buddhism's relationship with reproduction, but also Buddhism provides abundant healing resources for dealing with childbirth on the practical level. Overall I contend that Buddhist healing resources for childbirth served as an effective channel through which Buddhist teaching, worldview and concepts of gender and body were conveyed to its supplicants. Through this investigation, this dissertation contributes to the understanding of the association of Buddhism with medicine, the influence of Buddhist discourses and practices of reproduction on China, and the transmission of Buddhist views of gender, the body, and life to China through its healing activities related to childbirth.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Lin_columbia_0054D_13894.pdf Lin_columbia_0054D_13894.pdf application/pdf 5.71 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Faure, Bernard R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 18, 2017