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How did Buddhist women access religious experience and transcendence in a Confucian patriarchal system in imperial China? How were Buddhist practices carried out in...

How did Buddhist women access religious experience and transcendence in a Confucian patriarchal system in imperial China? How were Buddhist practices carried out in the intimate settings of a boudoir?

In Dr. Yuhang Li’s recent monograph, Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press, 2020), the answers to these questions can be found in creative usages of “women’s things” and the female body.

Dr. Li shows in this book that through expressive depictions of Guanyin, or the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in various media such as painting and embroidery, and through embodiments of the deity via jewelry and dance, Buddhist women in Ming-Qing China were able to forge personal connections with the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Dr. Li argues that this connection was made possible through “mimetic devotion,” which allowed the faithful devotees to use their own bodies and material things to “become” the feminized form of the popular Buddhist deity.

Yuhang Li is an assistant professor of Chinese art in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional networks of Buddhism connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and Imperial Japan.