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Title: Merit-Making or Financial Fraud?
Subtitle: Litigating Buddhist Nuns in Early 10th-Century Dunhuang
Author(s): LIU, Cuilan
Journal: Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume: 41    Date: 2018   
Pages: 169-208
DOI: 10.2143/JIABS.41.0.3285742

Abstract :
This article re-examines records of a financial dispute between two Buddhist nuns preserved in a Chinese manuscript (P. 4810v) from the Dunhuang cave 17 to better understand the legal aspects of Buddhist practices in Dunhuang in the ninth and tenth century. It challenges the prevailing scholarly assumption that this dispute was an internal conflict between two nuns from the same nunnery, and posits that it was an inter-institutional conflict between individual nuns and administrators in two different monastic institutions. This new interpretation significantly changes our understanding of how the Buddhist monastic community in Dunhuang engaged with the local legal system. It reveals that, despite their access to locally circulating texts of Indic Buddhist canon law prohibiting ordained Buddhists from initiating lawsuits in the courtroom, monks and nuns in Dunhuang were legally active and not reluctant to seek legal intervention in response to infringements on their rights.

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