The seventeenth century is generally acknowledged as one of the most politically tumultuous but culturally creative periods of late imperial Chinese history. Scholars have noted the profound effect on, and literary responses to, the fall of the Ming on the male literati elite. Also of great interest is the remarkable emergence beginning in the late Ming of educated women as readers and, more importantly, writers. Only recently beginning to be explored, however, are such seventeenth-century religious phenomena as “the reinvention” of Chan Buddhism—a concerted effort to revive what were believed to be the traditional teachings, texts, and practices of “classical” Chan. And, until now, the role played by women in these religious developments has hardly been noted at all. Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China, by Beata Grant, is an innovative interdisciplinary work that brings together several of these important seventeenth-century trends.
July 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3202-5 / $46.00 (CLOTH)