The Making of a Sacred Place: The Rise of Mt. Jiuhua in the Late Imperial and Republican Eras (1368–1949)
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 05/01/2026
AbstractThis dissertation focuses on the historical transformation of Mt. Jiuhua from a local mountain to a national pilgrimage destination and the ways in which Mt. Jiuhua became the seat of Dizang Bodhisattva (Skt. Kṣitigarbha), a savior of the underworld beings in Chinese Buddhism, in the late imperial and Republican eras (1368–1949). This study explains the making of the sacred mountain by analyzing four salient features of local Buddhism. First, it deals with the cult of mummified bodies by looking into local mortuary practices. Jiuhua Buddhists, choosing not to follow the monastic rules concerning cremation, opted to create a successful tradition of mummy-making for the deceased Buddhists. The continuing emergence of new mummies shaped the perceived sacred atmosphere of Mt. Jiuhua. Second, by analyzing relevant precious scrolls (baojuan) and local dramas, it reveals how vernacular literature functioned as a medium for the localization of Dizang. The performance based on such literature that was carried out at Buddhist events was the key to the further dissemination of the image of Mt. Jiuhua as a sacred mountain. Third, it argues that the sacredness of the mountain was constructed and negotiated through pilgrimage practices, evidenced by diverse material objects used in pilgrimage. Fourth, it explores the accrued layers of local history, represented by three predominant discourses pertaining to Mt. Jiuhua (i.e., Jin Dizang’s ascetic practice, Li Bai’s visits, and Wang Yangming’s sojourn), which promoted the fame of Mt. Jiuhua in concert. In summary, in explicating the uniqueness of Jiuhua Buddhism, this dissertation adopts an interdisciplinary approach that bridges religion and geography and contributes to the study of sacred space in Chinese religion. By challenging the artificial dichotomy between “institutional” and “popular” religion and using understudied local materials, it provides an alternative evaluation of the vitality of Ming-Qing Buddhism by focusing on religious practices.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies