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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 4.1 (2021): 1–36;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Worldmaking Programs & Tiantai/Chontae/Tendai Buddhism)

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Making Four Buddhist Worlds: A Reading of the Liturgies for Creating Ritual Spaces in Dunhuang Manuscripts

Huaiyu CHEN 陳懷宇
Arizona State University

Abstract: This paper examines a group of liturgical manuscripts from Dunhuang for understanding Buddhist rituals of creating four ritual spaces. These rituals consist of a series of programs of ritual performance such as consecrating the ritual space, invoking deities, honouring the Bodhisattvas, feeding the beings in the underworld, and praying for the sentient beings, under the leadership of monastic members with the sponsorship of lay followers of local community. By analyzing these procedures and programs, this paper aims to reveal four worlds that these rituals manifested: the Buddhist cosmological world in the ritual constructed by the consecration and invocation of Buddhist clergies, the textual world that materially and verbally produced, introduced, and interpreted texts, the political and social world that political agents from both central and peripheral regions played different roles, and the Buddhist material world that was constructed for the material foundation for these rituals in the Dunhuang area. This study will shed new light on the ritual spaces serving as multi-layer compounds that brought cosmic figures, monastic members, lay community, and material objects together.

Keywords: ritual space, liturgy, Buddhist cosmology, dhāraṇī


About the Author: Huaiyu Chen 陳懷宇 (Ph.D., Princeton University) is Associate Professor of School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. He has numerous publications on medieval Chinese religious and cultural history, the Silk Road Studies, and modern Chinese intellectual history. He has held fellowships from Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Clare Hall of Cambridge University, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPIWG).


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.