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From demonic to karmic retribution

Changing concepts of bao in early mediaeval china as seen in the You ming lu

Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Zhenjun Zhang

The You ming lu is a tale collection that demonstrates Buddhist influence as it began to appear in popular Chinese literature on a relatively large scale. While some indigenous themes in the collection remain in their original states, others have been modified to reflect Buddhist assumptions. This provides us with a vivid picture of some of the historical changes that occurred in the development of early mediaeval Chinese culture. The concept of retribution, bao, is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. In the You ming lu, indigenous demonic retribution is a popular theme, but in some stories this theme became blurred because the demonic figure is not directly evident, showing a tendency of intermingling with Buddhist notion of retribution, xianshi bao. Most importantly, stories with explicit Buddhist flavour and those featuring Buddhist karmic retribution appear in large number. This is a gradual but tremendous change under the impact of Buddhism.

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