Friday 5/6 2016 - A Talk by Victor H. Mair: "Form, Formulary, and Formation of the Earliest Guanyin Miracle Tales"

The Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar, the Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religion and the Columbia University Seminars would like to invite you to the following talk:

Form, Formulary, and Formation of the Earliest Guanyin Miracle Tales

A Talk by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania)
Time: Friday, May 6th, 2015, 6 PM
Place: Columbia University, Faculty House* (room TBA)

Miracle tales played a key role in the domestication and popularization of Avalokiteśvara (Ch. Guanyin 觀音) in China.  It is significant that the three earliest collections of indigenous Guanyin stories were all written by literati in the southeast and were all styled yingyan ji 應驗記 ("records of proofs of [Guanyin's] responses"). Furthermore, all 86 of the stories in these collections, which were compiled around the fifth century, subscribe to certain distinctive conceptual presuppositions and display specific structural properties.  The fundamental philosophical basis for all of these stories is the notion of ganying 感應 ("stimulus-response"), whereas the mechanism that infallibly triggers this crucial reaction is the practice of nian 念 ("mindfulness; thinking of; concentrating upon; invoking").  Since ganying is a fundamentally Chinese idea and nian embodies a basic Indian Buddhist doctrine in a peculiarly Chinese fashion, it is easy to see why these stories were so effective in the assimilation of Guanyin as an authentic Chinese Buddhist deity.

About the Speaker:
Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, has been teaching there since 1979. He specializes in Buddhist popular literature as well as the vernacular tradition of Chinese fiction and the performing arts. Beginning in the early 1990s, Professor Mair has led an interdisciplinary research project on the Bronze Age and Iron Age mummies of Eastern Central Asia. Among other results of his efforts during this period are six documentaries for television (Scientific American, NOVA, BBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, and German Television), a major international conference, numerous articles, and a book, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West (Thames and Hudson, 2000). He is also author of three major books (Tun-huang Popular Narratives [Cambridge, 1983], Painting and Performance: Chinese Picture Recitation and Its Indian Genesis [Hawaii, 1988], T'ang Transformation Texts: A Study of the Buddhist Contribution to the Rise of Vernacular Fiction and Drama in China [Harvard, 1989]), and scores of articles pertaining to Dunhuang.
 * Room TBA. On the day of the talk please check room assignment on the digital board in the Faculty House entrance lobby.
For directions to the Faculty House, see the following PDF:

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