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Chinese Literature
Biqiuni zhuan 比丘尼傳 "Biographies of Eminent Nuns"


The Biqiuni zhuan 比丘尼傳 "Biographies of Eminent Nuns", shortly called Nizhuan 尼傳, is a collection of biographies of Buddhist nuns compiled by the Liang period 梁 (502-557) monk Baochang 寳唱. The word biqiuni is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word bhikṣuṇī "nun". The 4 juan "scrolls" long book includes 65 biographies, and an appendix with 51 biographies of nuns from the Jin 晉 (265-420) to the early Southern Dynasties period 南朝 (420~589). Most persons came from the Lower Yangtse region. The book is arranged chronologically and is not divided into sections determining the strength or expertise of the persons included, as is the case in Baochang's book Mingsengzhuan 名僧傳 and Huijiao's 慧皎 Gaosengzhuan 高僧傳. The Biqiuni zhuan is very important for the study of the history of Buddhism in China. It can be seen, for instance, that most nuns came from the upper levels of society and often had access to the imperial palace and so had the opportunity to influence political decisions. Nuns occupied a highly venerated position in the society of the Southern Dynasties. It can also be seen how the status of nuns was introduced into China, while in earlier stages, only monks were ordained and no females. The biographies also provide information about the private sponsorship of the aristocracy towards Buddhist monasteries or nunneries.
The Biqiuni zhuan is included in the Buddhist Canon Taishō Tripitaka 大正新脩大藏經 (T 2063). The most important modern edition has been published in 1991 by the Shanghai guji press 上海古籍出版社 as part of the the Gaosengzhuan heji 高僧傳合集.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2224. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

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March 17, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail