New Religious Teachings and Narrative Baojuan in the Late 19th Century: The Example of the Complete Recension of the Scroll of Mulian
Keywords:baojuan, vernacular prosimetric literature, syncretic religions, Mulian, Chinese Buddhism
Most baojuan (precious scrolls), predominantly religious-oriented prosimetric texts in the vernacular language, in the late period of their development (late 19th–early 20th centuries) lost connection with heterodox religious teachings. Notwithstanding this several newly emerged religious traditions in the 19th century continuedto use the baojuan form to propagate their teachings. This paper analyses specific religious ideas in the Complete Recension of the Scroll of Mulian, first printed in Hangzhou in 1877. This text still has not been translated into any foreign language and is rarely discussed in research work, although it is considerably different from the more widespread recensions of this baojuan. The Complete Recension includes many additional entertaining episodes from the voluminous Mulian dramas of southern China. We can also find ideas of syncretic religious teachings, including references to the inner alchemy technique, which is especially characteristic of the Former Heaven Religion (Xiantiandao) groups. I also compare this text with other recensions of the Mulian Baojuan still recited in China in order to demonstrate the interplay of various beliefs and practices in the late baojuan texts.
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