The Buddha’s Voice: Ritual Sound And Sensory Experience In Medieval Chinese Religious Practice
History of Religion
This dissertation explores Buddhist chanting practices in mainly the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), showing that they were more than just one part of ritual practice: chanting could also be a type of music, an educational tool, a means for manipulating the supernatural, and a cure and cause of illness. Previous studies of chanting practices in Chinese Buddhism have addressed histories of transmission, doctrinal approaches, and made efforts to preserve melodies through notation. However, they do not necessarily capture how individuals who engaged in chanting experienced this practice. Therefore this dissertation aims to investigate this experience through accounts found in hagiography, miracle tales, and other Buddhist materials. In studying chanting from this perspective, we can see how local and individual experiences, goals, and needs interacted with practices, and how these practices operated within Chinese Buddhist communities. Furthermore, we can understand how and when these understandings and practices were informed by scripture, and when they were not, through how individuals performed, listened to, and promoted them.