A Millennium and a half ago some remarkable Women cast aside the concerns of the world to devote their lives to Buddhism. Lives of the Nuns, a translation of the Pi-ch'iu-ni chuan, was compiled by Shih Pao-ch'ang in or about A.D. 516 and covers exactly that period when Buddhist monasticism for women was first being established in China. Originally written to demonstrate the efficacy of Buddhist scripture in the lives of Female monastics, the sixty-five biographies are now regarded as the best source of information about women's participation in Buddhist monastic practice in premodern China.
Among the stories-of the Buddhist life well lived are entertaining tales that reveal the wit and Intelligence of these women in the Face of unsavory officials, highway robbers, even fawning barbarians. When, Ching-ch'eng and a' fellow nun, renowned for their piety and strict asceticism, are taken to "the Capital of the Northern barbarians" and plied with delicacies, the women "besmirch their own reputation" by gobbling down the food shamelessly. Appalled by their lack of manners, the disillusioned Barbarians release the nuns, who return happily to their convent.
Lives of the Nuns gives readers a glimpse into a world long vanished yet peopled with women and Men who express the same aspirations and longing for Spiritual enlightenment found at all Times and in all places.
Buddhologists, sinologists, historians, arid those interested in Religious studies and women's studies will welcome this volume, which includes annotations for readers new to the field of Chinese Buddhist History as well as for the specialist.