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Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers$
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Norman Rothschild

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169387

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169387.001.0001

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Bodhisattva with a Female Body

Bodhisattva with a Female Body

Wu Zhao and Devi Jingguang

(p.209) Twelve Bodhisattva with a Female Body
Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers

N. Harry Rothschild

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the efforts of propagandists to illustrate how Wu Zhao was the avatar of Buddhist devi Jingguang (Sanskrit: Vimalaprabhā). In a sutra that reached China in the sixth century, the Buddha prophesies that Jingguang will “obtain great sovereignty” and “be a bodhisattva who will show and receive a female body in order to convert beings.” Buddhist propagandists produced a commentary based on this sutra that they circulated on the eve of the inauguration of Wu Zhao's Zhou dynasty. This text meticulously cataloged proofs that Wu Zhao was the avatar of the Devi of Pure Radiance, which helped exalt the female emperor and legitimize her rule as a Buddhist sovereign. Her propagandists employed the “great cloud” as an emblem for the awesome breadth of her sacred and secular power.

Keywords:   avatar, devi, Jingguang, sutra, China, Buddha, bodhisattva, Wu Zhao, Zhou dynasty, Devi of Pure Radiance

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