Organized Panel Session
The scripture titled Foshuo fumu enzhong jing 佛說父母恩重經(the Sūtra on the Profoundness of Parents’ Kindness Spoken by the Buddha) or Foshuo bao fumu enzhong jing 佛說報父母恩重經(the Sūtra on Repaying the Profoundness of Parents’ Kindness Spoken by the Buddha) was popular across China from mid-Tang (c.766-835 C.E.) onwards, exemplified by manuscripts from Dunhuang and stone inscriptions from Sichuan, Fangshan and Shandong. Different from previous studies that focus on how to determine the various versions of this scripture and the textual origin of its composition (Ma 1990; Sun 1996; Arai 2002; Zheng 2003; Guangxing 2014), I examine two newly discovered steles and six others bearing the scripture of the same title from rural villages in Shandong. Through this examination, I argue that indigenous Buddhist texts on parents’ kindness express a more complex and dynamic history than previously assumed. To unravel their history, my study takes serious consideration of their inscriptions, material forms, and physical locations against the socio-political backdrop that encouraged their production. Developing the viewpoint that the appearance and prevalence of these scriptures reflects the syncretisation of Confucian filial piety with Buddhism (Sun 1996; Zheng 2003), my paper delves deeper into the mechanism of cultural integration by comparing the notion of repaying parents’ kindness in the prescribed Buddhist texts and in local mortuary practice. To avoid overlooking what happened historically beyond the texts, I pay special attention to “the function of the works, and to the cultural tradition and the social context in which they were created” (Wu 1986; Sharf 2002).