Performing the Bodhisattva Guanyin: Drama, Ritual and Narrative
CitationSun, Xiaosu. 2017. Performing the Bodhisattva Guanyin: Drama, Ritual and Narrative. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the diverse forms of the legend of princess Miaoshan, an incarnation of the bodhisattva Guanyin, in vernacular literature from the Ming-Qing period onwards. Existing scholarly interest in this legend has principally focused on the spread of the legend in printed literature, and little light has been cast on how the legend has been reenacted on stage. This study, which combines literary analysis of sacred texts with field observation of live performance, suggests new directions in the study of Guanyin worship by highlighting the importance of performance to the Miaoshan legend.
This dissertation investigates the metamorphosis of the Miaoshan legend in performance-oriented literature and demonstrates how the written version of this work is realized in the performance arena. It is specifically focused on reincarnations of the legend in three performative genres: ritual opera, didactic narratives generated through spirit-writing séances, and baojuan (precious scrolls). It foregrounds the roles of the performers and audiences who actively engage in producing elastic and spontaneous performances, as well as the spiritual and aesthetic value of renao (noisy excitement, feverish commotion) generated in such performances. Special attention is paid to the demands of the performative genres and the performance contexts that I argue contribute to the unpredictable, complicated, and sometimes contingent changes in the Miaoshan legend. By investigating the rich, varied, and sometimes unpredictable changes and transformations of the Miaoshan legend in the performance arena, this dissertation offers some insights into the nature of religious experience, the relationship between performance and spirituality, as well as the dynamics of communication between the worshipped and worshippers.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140259
- FAS Theses and Dissertations