The Precocious Child in Chinese Buddhism

Miriam Levering

in Little Buddhas

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860265
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979929 | DOI:

Series: AAR Religion, Culture, and History

The Precocious Child in Chinese Buddhism

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The stories of Buddhist children destined to be saints or monastics reflect the motif of “the precocious child” that was already evident in Chinese elite culture in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 C.E.). Yet childhood is not neglected in elite Buddhist texts. Childhood appears in stories of the Buddha’s birth and infancy, in ceremonies of bathing the infant Buddha who stands in the posture of proclamation of his real nature and mission, and in the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras, two Indian sutras that are immensely popular in China in part because they portray children in heroic roles. Childhood takes on a larger role in indigenous Buddhist tales, where they display real filiality as Buddhists understand it. In popular indigenous Buddhist stories, children, who are not yet ordained renouncers or sexually active adults, are seen as the best persons to achieve this universal Mahayana Buddhist goal.

Keywords: Yufo; Buddha’s birth; Dragon King Sagara; dragon girl; Lotus Sutra; Sudhana; The Seven Steps; Abhiseka; royal consecration; Cakravartin; Dunhuang; Guanyin

Chapter.  16958 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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