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Title: Monk poetry as external learning in the Middle and Late Tang, exemplified by the poetry and lives of Guanxiu and Qiji
Author: Li, Yun-Chung
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is concerned with monk shi poetry within the context of the political, intellectual and literary history focusing on the Middle and Late Tang. Buddhist monks engaged in non-Buddhist studies as external learning (waixue) to assist their interactions with non-Buddhists. Shi poetry was one of these non-Buddhist studies. This thesis introduces the rise of poet-monks from the Middle Tang period (from 785 onwards) as a literary and social phenomenon. One focus is to investigate why the Buddhist clergy tolerated the poet-monks' prolific unreligious poetry writing. The monastic code Shisong lu (Sarvastivada-vinaya) as well as the teachings of Southern Chan Buddhism are examined as Buddhist teachings relevant to the monks' shi poetry writing. It is argued that these teachings facilitated the monks' external learning, however, without directly inspiring the rise of poet-monks. The function of external learning is examined in the context of the clergy's position in the socio-political environment and their political relationship with Confucian orientated scholar-officials. It is concluded that the rise of poet-monks was mainly inspired by the Buddhist monks' political desire to maintain a peaceful relationship with non-Buddhists. Furthermore, the poet-monks wrote poetiy to advance their personal career prospect and as an artistic self-expression. The lives and poems of two poet-monks, Guanxiu (832-912) and Qiji (864-c. 943) are examined as a case study. It is demonstrated that their religious careers and the stylistic characteristics of their poetry were shaped by the function of external learning. Their poetry is analysed and compared to their contemporary literati poetry. It is concluded that, although the motivation for monks to write shi poetry may have been pragmatic, their distinct background allowed them to nevertheless make an independent contribution to the greater shi poetry tradition in its own right.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral