Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Schlütter, Morten

First Committee Member

Chen, Shuang

Second Committee Member

Curley, Melissa

Third Committee Member

Feeley, Jennifer

Fourth Committee Member

Vlastos, Stephen


The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw China transition from the medieval to the early modern period. This transition was marked by rampant piracy, a boom in book publishing, and other developments that challenged traditional social and economic habits, thereby forcing China to evolve. Buddhism during the time was similarly stressed, facing government suppression early in the Ming, and facing steeper competition for donations and patronage throughout the dynasty. In response, Ming Buddhism adapted itself to the changing times in numerous ways: the rise of lay societies and an increase in devotional practice being two important examples. One of the most prominent figures of late Ming Buddhism is Yunqi Zhuhong (1535-1615). In 1587 Zhuhong wrote the "Fanwangjing xindipin pusajie yishu fayin," a commentary on the Brahma Net Sutra, which contains a list of ten major and forty-eight minor "bodhisattva precepts" taken by both lay and monastic Buddhists in East Asia. Therefore, Zhuhong's commentary allowed him to interpret the common moral framework of all Buddhists in his local and extended community.

This dissertation offers a translation and analysis of key portions of Zhuhong's commentary on the Brahma Net Sutra in order to understand his philosophy of violence. By unearthing Zhuhong's arguments regarding when killing is or is not acceptable this dissertation aims to begin bringing Chinese philosophies of violence into conversation with western just war thought. Additionally, Zhuhong's philosophy of violence demonstrates what I term "Chan realism," which is an amalgam of moral and political realism. Understanding Zhuhong's philosophy of violence therefore also allows us to better understand the competing religious and political loyalties faced by those living in the late Ming. Lastly, by translating Zhuhong's philosophy of violence and analyzing his realism, this dissertation aims to increase our understanding of the novelty and innovation occurring within Chinese Buddhism during the Ming Dynasty.


bodhisattva precepts, Buddhism, Chan, realism, Yunqi Zhuhong


vii, 265 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 256-265).


Copyright 2013 Matthew Wilhite

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