A FEW GOOD WOMEN: A STUDY OF THE LIU DU JI JING (A SCRIPTURE ON THE COLLECTION OF THE SIX PERFECTIONS) FROM LITERARY, ARTISTIC, AND GENDER PERSPECTIVES
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This dissertation explores one of the Chinese jataka collections, the Liu du ji jing (A Scripture on the Collection of the Six Perfections) from literary, artistic, and gender perspectives. When I compare the features of the Liu du ji jing and those of other jatakas with Indian non-Buddhist narrative literature, I discover that they share a great deal of common ground?the linguistic, cultural, and stylistic milieu that nurtured them during their period of active development until they matured in relative isolation as distinct genres. Through centuries of constant development and reformulation, the jataka became a genre in its own right, although its distinctive traits as a genre changed over time in response to the changing contexts of Buddhist teachings, resulting in works as different as the Pali Jataka, Cariyapitaka, Jatakamala, and the Liu du ji jing. In addition to their literary presentation, the jatakas and the stories in the Liu du ji jing were also propagated in visual art at Indian stupas, but there they served a devotional rather than a didactical function. Given the sequence in which individual jataka scenes are arranged and the inaccessible location of these scenes within the stupas, it is unlikely that this artwork was intended to be read or understood by the viewer. Finally, I analyze and discuss the social and religious status of women as they are represented in the jatakas and what this tells us about the various Buddhist attitudes toward them. Here, the contrast between the way women are portrayed in the Liu du ji jing and the Pali Jatakas is significant. Unlike in any of the Pali jatakas, in three stories of the Liu du ji jing, "Buddha" was a woman (in a past life) four times. We will find that the Liu du ji jing is among the few Buddhist scriptures with a positive attitude toward women, and thus, in the eyes of its authors at least, there were a few good women.