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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 6.1 (2023): 277–335;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Narrative Literature)

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The Vicissitudes of the Story of Therī Paṭācārā: From Early Buddhism to the Mahāyāna

Haoqin ZHONG 鍾昊沁
The University of Hong Kong

Abstract: In Pāli commentaries, there is a famous story about Therī Paṭācārā, who was plagued by a chain of catastrophes and was finally left bereft of all her kin. Similar stories appear in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist literature but with apparent variations. This is a salient case of the appropriation and assimilation of Indian Buddhist literature by Chinese and Tibetan Buddhists. This paper focuses on variations in these narratives of ‘The Paṭācārā Story’ in Buddhist literature. It explains how these variations came into being by comparing different texts and studying their contexts. First, this paper presents why these stories that share a main theme have different protagonists. Second, it suggests that during the transmission and development of Buddhism, some ‘prototype’ stories were combined and revised by subsequent generations, perhaps for moral education purposes. Finally, this paper identifies some elements as later additions, such as those regarding burial customs, and identifies the element of a mother being forced to eat her son as a possible misinterpretation during the transmission of the Buddhist texts.

Keywords: Buddhist narratives, Therī Paṭācārā, Sinicisation, putta-khādini


About the Author: Haoqin Zhong received her Ph.D. at the Center of Buddhist Studies of the University of Hong Kong. She received her B.S. and M.S. from Peking University, and Tsinghua University respectively. Her research interests include Buddhist narrative literature, feminist Buddhism, early Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Vinaya Studies, and comparative religions.


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.