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From the underworld to the Pure Land : contemporary Kṣitigarbha (Dizang)-related rituals on Mount Jiuhua

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Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Long, Darui
Capitanio, Joshua
Iwamura, Jane N.


This dissertation examines one special ceremony and three specific rituals central to Chinese Buddhism as it is practiced in the Jiuhua region. As one of the "Four Great Buddhist Mountains" in China, Mount Jiuhua, located in Anhui, China, is uniquely important to research on Kṣitigarbha (Dizang/Jizō) Bodhisattva; it is the site where the Silla Prince, Jin Qiaojue /Jin Dizang/Kim Gyo-gak (696-794), had lived for 75 years and was universally acknowledged by Chinese monks as the incarnation of Dizang after he entered nirvana at the age of ninety-nine. His corporeal body is still located on Mount Jiuhua. As a result, Mount Jiuhua has become the most famous Chinese bodhimanda (site of pilgrimage) of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and the official site on which Dizang-related rituals are held. Millions of Chinese Buddhists, with a special concern for their ancestors, travel to the mountain each year to partake in these rituals. As such, Mount Jiuhua and the rituals performed there offer an important glimpse into Chinese Buddhism as a lived religion.

In my ethnographic work, I investigated three popular Buddhist rituals that take place on Mount Jiuhua: (1) the Dizang jing Chanting Service, which is observed throughout the year at various temples; (2) the Flaming-mouth Yoga Ritual, which is observed anytime upon donors’ request; and (3) the Ullambana Festival, which is held on a specific date, namely the 15th day of the 7th lunar month each year. In addition, I also observed the consecration ceremony of the world's tallest outdoor bronze statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva on August 31, 2013, which vividly reflects the Buddhist revival in Modern China.

Little scholarship in English language sources exists on contemporary Dizang rituals held on Mount Jiuhua. As a popular site of Buddhist pilgrimage in modern-day China, examining the rituals that take place on Mount Jiuhua offers a productive lens through which to examine the contemporary revival of Chinese Buddhism. Combining ethnographic research (participant observation) and analysis of historical materials and key sūtras, this dissertation seeks to highlight the performative aspect of Chinese Buddhist ritual practice as it is informed by space and place.

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University of the West



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