Congratulations Professor Mark Halperin on Publication!

Mark Halperin


Professor Mark Halperin has published article "A Domesticated Charisma: Buddhist Hagiographies in Southern Song China (1127-1279)." History of Religions, 63 (1): 1-34. Congratulations!


Unlike comparable texts found in other religious traditions, hagiographies of Chinese Buddhist monks were composed by writers from outside the ecclesia, that is, Confucian scholar-officials. This difference produced, according to some scholars, a “peculiar distortion” in the transmission of the Chinese Buddhist religious heritage. This article examines the results of this anomaly, focusing on inscriptions composed for burial stupas, our richest source for biographical information about illustrious clergy. It concentrates on the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), an era that saw a thriving Buddhist church, intensified state control over the sangha and its abbacies, and the rise of Neo-Confucian orthodoxy, all of which shaped Chinese intellectual and cultural life for centuries. These shifts helped produce a epigraphic literature that turned away from an earlier emphasis on miracles and asceticism toward a less spectacular, more subdued mode of sacredness. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, great monks were represented as remarkable men who won acclaim in the dusty world but, as true vessels of the dharma, remained unbound to it. Fully awakened to the Buddha-truth, detached from worldly concerns, and leaving behind relics upon their passing, they also proved themselves to be skillful managers of monastic affairs and drew the reverence of their peers, scholar-officials, and the Song throne. Their mastery of this balancing act made for a new, domesticated charisma, adjusted for the changed political circumstances but that still set these men far apart from the rest of lay and clerical society.