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256 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Pingchao Zhu is an instructor ofhistory specializing in modern China and U.S.-East Asian Relations. Stephen Teiser. The Scripture on the Ten Kings and the Making ofPurgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu: University ofHawai'i Press, 1994. xxxiii, 340 pp. Hardcover $46.00, isbn 0-8248-1587-4. There is no question that the Buddhist notion of purgatory was extremely popular in medieval China. From fhe Six Dynasties on, numerous tales were told and written by eifher lay Buddhists or clerics to propagate the horror ofpurgatory. The purpose ofthese stories was simple and clear: practice Buddhism to avoid purgatorial sufferings. The practice could be diverse among the common people, depending on die school or community with which they were affiliated, but the gist ofany practice was merit-making. Merit-making required the performing of good deeds in the name of"Buddhist service," to which the use of scriptures was crucial. Medieval Chinese learned from clerics the significance of scriptures. They upheld various kinds ofscriptures to induce blessings and expected to benefit from the magical power attached to the particular scripture they used. Upon their death, they wished to avoid harsh punishments in the various heUs, to return to the world from an untimely death, or to enjoy rebirth in the Western Paradise. The scriptures that were used to fulfill their wishes included major canonical Mahäyäna sütras such as the Lotus Sütra, the Huayan Sütra, die Diamond Sütra, the Amitäbha Sütra, and die Golden Light Sütra. Clearly, medieval Chinese Buddhists believed in the efficacy of upholding one ofdiese sütras. They were also famüiar with the hair-raising tortures in the hells commonly believed to be presided over by King Yama. AU tales stressing the efficacy of upholding the sütras were instrumental to the people's understanding ofthe gruesome consequences of their evü acts, and thus encouraged them to dedicate dieir time to "Buddhist service." However, these tales were unclear about the structure ofpurgatory, except for the tribunal of King Yama. They gave little detaü about the different stages of the journey through which the deceased passed , in purgatory before they were given a new form oflife. They were inconsistent ofHawai'iPressabout fhe deliverance ofdie deceased from purgatory to the Western Paradise, when their merits outweighed dieir demerits. AU in aU, these tales were ambiguous about die complexity of the underground world in Chinese religion. Reviews 257 A nearly forgotten scripture caUed The Scripture on the Ten Kings, which Stephen Teiser has resurrected in his book, confirms the existence ofa well-structured purgatory in medieval China. Through Teiser's meticulous research, readers learn ofthe formation ofthe ten kings and their purgatorial courts, which they may have encountered first in Henri Maspero's inspiring Taoism and Chinese Religion .1 In his book, Teiser details fhe social history ofthe ten kings and the rich religious tradition surrounding their worship. He examines the ideas, practice, and history ofChinese purgatory, which underpinned the extensive use, circulation , and production of The Scripture on the Ten Kings in medieval China. He documents the worship ofthe ten kings as manifested in medieval memorial rites, artistic representations, secular essays, religious treatises, encyclopedias, dreams, sermons, and liturgies written for Buddhist and Taoist services. He establishes the possible date when The Scripture on the Ten Kings came into existence and reveals the author's attempt to legitimize the text by tracing its Indian origin. He also reconstructs historical facts about some obscure individuals who upheld the scripture in various ways, and he provides a detailed account ofhow these individuals produced the scripture, thus helping it circulate among a wider public. Finally, he offers a painstakingly annotated translation of the scripture by comparing its sixteen different editions. In this critical study of The Scripture on the Ten Kings, Teiser acquaints his readers wifh the vital role that the ten kings and the scripture played in medieval China. He uses rich Buddhist sources derived from Dunhuang to support and validate his argument about the extensive worship of the ten kings in China from the seventh to the twelfth century. On the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 256-261
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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