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Tang Studies 22 (2004) Contested Virtue: The Daoist Investiture of Princesses Jinxian and Yuzhen and the Journey of Tang Imperial Daughters PING YAO CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, Los ANGELES Among two hundred ten reported Tang imperial princesses, eleven of them took a vow during early adulthood and lived as Daoist nuns until the end of their lives;l one was ordained in childhood but later chose to live a laywoman's life;2and five others were, at one point, married but decided to become nuns in their later years.3 The investiture of Tang princesses started in 670 with Princess Taiping *-:s:jL, daughter of Emperor Gaozong f,!6 *(r. 649-683) and Empress Wu (r. 684-705), and ended with Princess •I wish to thank Suzanne Cahill, Jin Jiang, Joan Judge, Susan Mann, Weijing Lu, Patricia Ebrey, Phal Vaught, and the two anonymous readers for Tang Studies for their valuable comments and criticism on this paper. 1 They are Princesses Jinxian 'ili:ftlJ, Yuzhen 35:., Wan'an "'lX, Huayang ~ ~,Wen'an x'lX, Xunyang i~~, Ping'en :sf,~" Shaoyang R~~, Yongjia ;7j(~, Yichang ~ ~, and Ankang 'lX~. 2 Princess Taiping *:sf was ordained shortly after the death of Rongguo furen ~~:1(A, Empress Wu's mother, in 670. 3 They are Princesses Yongmu ;7j(f~,Xinchang *JT~, Shouchun §:ff, Xianyi i8X::§[, and Yong'an ;7j('lX. Princess Yong'an, the fifteenth daughter of Emperor Xianzong 71* (r. 806-821), was once betrothed to the Uighur Khan, but the Khan died before the wedding took place. Yearslater, Princess Yong'an entered the Daoist order. Yao: Contested Virtue Ankang ~.m,daughter of Emperor Muzong {~*(r. 821-825).4 The princesses' decision to lead a religious life was lauded by the court as a manifestation of their female virtue, as well as the imperial clan's moral prestige. Nevertheless, living independently in nunneries proved to be a great opportunity for some Daoist princesses to amass power and wealth. Opposition arose near the very beginning of the practice when Emperor Ruizong if* (r. 684-690 and 710-712) ordered lavish Daoist convents built for Princesses ]inxian sjz{tlI (ca. 688-732) and Yuzhen .:E.~ (fl. 700) in 710. In this essay I investigate the journey of Jinxian and Yuzhen as Daoist nuns and the controversy about virtue that emerged over the building of their convents, the ways the concept of virtue was reinterpreted and manipulated by different players in the Tang power system, and how the controversy reflects the intermingling of religion, gender, and politics during the Tang Dynasty. I argue that the investiture of Princesses Jinxian and Yuzhen in the face of court officials' strong objections was a turning point in the history of the Tang imperial court: while Tang royal women were known for meddling in politics during the early Tang, by Jinxian's times, court officials had already signaled their determination to curb their influence. Meanwhile, in light of the realization that they could no longer throw their weight around at court as had Princesses Taiping 4 The most detailed information about Tang princesses who entered the Daoist order can be found in chapter six, "Gongzhu" 0 3::, and chapter fifty,"Zunchong Daojiao" #*m~(, of Tang huiyao m11r~ (rpt. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1998, hereafter THY). In addition, chapter eighty-three, "Zhudi gongzhu" §1!i *03::, of Xin Tangshu '¥JT FrJif(rpt. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997, hereafter XTS) also recorded most Daoist princesses' religious status. 2 Tang Studies 22 (2004) and Anle :ft~, Princesses Jinxian and Yuzhen, both of whom seemed to be interested in Daoist teachings, may have figured that becoming Daoist nuns would bring independence, political power, and economic wealth, as well as the opportunity to practice their faith. The building of their convents provoked the first full-fledged conflict of interest between female royalty and male court officials. Even though concessions were made to appease the critics, other princesses later followed Jinxian and Yuzhen's example and the controversy continued. Tang princesses seeking independence and power suffered a final blow in 877 when Daoist Princess Ankang was called back to live inside the palace. By then, the development of the discourse on female virtue in the Tang court had reached...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1759-7633
Print ISSN
0737-5034
Pages
pp. 1-40
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-08
Open Access
No
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