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Ming Emperors and the Faith of Guanyin-A Case Study of Two Guanyin Scriptures Compiled in Yongle and Wanli Periods



Parallel abstracts

For the Ming emperors, the faith of Guanyin was what legitimized their authority as being vested by god. Yongle Emperor took the throne by initiating the Jingnan Rebellion. Legitimizing his reign was on his mind constantly. He thus thought of using the popular faith in Guanyin and compiled ”Sutra of Merit and Virtue - Ming Empress Renxiao's Dream of Buddha”. With it, he claimed that his reign was authorized and protected by Guanyin. For Yongle Emperor, Guanyin bestowed the power upon him and was also the protector of his power. When Wanli Emperor reigned, he compiled pseudo-scriptures such as ”Sutra of Incarnation of the Benevolent Savior Lotus Bodhisattva” to back up the claim that his mother was the incarnation of Guanyin that is, Lotus Bodhisattva herself. This act elevated his mother, Empress Cisheng's status and distinguished her from the empress consort, Empress Renxiao. By deifying his mother, he also deified himself as well. He eliminated all uncertainties associated with him for becoming the emperor but not being the child of the empress consort. They also made up Guanyin Scriptures. In order to make people believe that the contents in the scriptures were true, Buddhist doctrines were also incorporated. For example, ”Sutra of Merit and Virtue - Ming Empress Renxiao's Dream of Buddha” includes the teachings of Madhyamaka, Buddha Nature (Buddha-dhatu), Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) and Conscious-only (Yogacara). ”Sutra of Incarnation of the Benevolent Savior Lotus Bodhisattva” also teaches the doctrines of the Twelve Nidanas (Twelve Causes) and Entry to the Pure Land. The faith of Guanyin thus flourished. From the emperors of Ming Dynasty, one can see the status changes of the faith of Guanyin.