La construction de la sainteté dans la Chine moderne: La vie du maître bouddhiste Xuyun (completed)

The Construction of Sainthood in Modern China: the life of Buddhist Master Xuyun

Daniela Campo

How does one become a saint in modern times?

This question represents the starting point of a biographical quest on Xuyun (circa 1864-1959), one of the most revered Buddhist masters in modern China. The quest builds on the tension between hagiography and historiography.

Based on both historical documents and oral and written accounts by Xuyun’s disciples, the author relates the life of this eminent abbot from the last decades of the Chinese empire to the first decade of the Maoist regime – as well as the genesis of his religious myth.

An ascetic and a miracle worker, an enlightened master and an eminent abbot, an authoritative figure and a martyr: Xuyun’s life embodies and represents the many ways Chinese Buddhist communities lived in modern times and reacted to political and social changes. It evokes a troubled era, marked by the tension between the heritage of tradition and the aspirations of modernity.

The story of Xuyun’s life encompasses the story of the formation of its biographical narrative: the author deconstructs the religious biography of this Buddhist master before reconstructing his historical biography.

This book is thus ultimately a story about how history is written, and continuously rewritten.


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