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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cult of Guanyin who brings sons in China Chuu, Ling-in Lilian

Abstract

Guanyin Who Brings Sons usually represented as a white-robed lady carrying a baby in her arms, is a famous goddess specializing in granting sons widely worshiped in China. Developed from a promise of Guanyin to bring children to people in the "Universal Gateway" chapter of Lotus Sutra, a significant scripture promoting Guanyin belief, she is not an independent deity different from Guanyin, the Bodhisattva Avalokitasvara or the Goddess of Mercy in Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Personalizing and embodying Guanyin's power of bringing children, she is one form of Guanyin's various manifestations. The establishment of the cult of Guanyin Who Brings Sons in China has a long history, which was closely associated with the development of Guanyin worship in China. Having the same Buddhist background as Guanyin, Guanyin Who Brings Sons experienced the same Chinese transformation as Guanyin did in her development in China. The Chinese transformation of Guanyin occurred under the impact of Chinese traditional culture, social values and indigenous religions after the worship of her had been introduced to China. The result of it is to make her widely accepted by the Chinese and to be deemed as a deity with Chinese characteristics. As a manifestation of Guanyin, Guanyin Who Brings Sons was also syncretized with Chinese culture and gained her Chinese image during the transformation. The Sinicized cult of Guanyin Who Brings Sons had different belief dimensions, which can be basically divided into orthodox Buddhism and folk Buddhism. Moreover, her duty was no longer confined to the function of granting sons. She was charged with the responsibilities concerning childbirth and childcare to become the patron of women and children. The objective of this thesis is not only to draw a sketch of the development of this cult in China from miracle tales, indigenous scriptures, scholars' field reports and other historical materials, but also to explore the different belief dimensions of this cult and compare the roles of Guanyin Who Brings Sons in these dimensions, in order to investigate the Chinese transformation reflected in them.

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