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Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns Paperback – June 15, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Beata Grant's deft and elegant translations, together with her informative introduction and the brief biographies she provides for each of her judiciously selected poets, disclose fascinating but hitherto concealed or ignored dimensions of Chinese women's spirituality and literary creativity." (Professor Robert M. Gimello, Harvard University)

"A landmark collection of exquisite poems scrupulously gathered and translated by Beata Grant. Grant provides an impressively compact and readable overview of the changing fortunes of Buddhist nuns in China, from the fourth century to the present." (Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly)

About the Author

Beata Grant is professor of Chinese and Religious Studies (Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures) at Washington University. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; Bilingual edition (June 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861713621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861713622
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Forty-eight Chinese Buddhist nuns of the fifth to the twentieth century are represented in this lovely book. Gratitude to Beata Grant for bringing the lives and poems of largely forgotten women into the light. These poems have not been published in English before.

It is wonderful to learn a little bit about the lives of these women, and to read some of what they wrote. Very down-to-earth mini portraits, with none of the mythifying typical of stories about male monastics who lived and wrote during the same periods.

The poems are also, for the most part, down-to-earth, simple, speaking of fundamental truth. This is not a collection of metaphysical poetry. Although the poems essentially hold to the traditional form and many conventions of (mostly Chan, but some Pure Land) Buddhist thought, often the individual character of a woman shines through in its honesty and simplicity. For example, the Chan nun Ziyong's poem speaks of leaving the monastery for an extended visit to the south. Images of uncertainty and grieving are woven through the poem. The last stanza says:

"The Chan mind is not solitary as the wilderness clouds know.
Reed moon and plum blossom, to whom can I send them?
The sorrow of parting is real and difficult to leave behind,
But if the journey is in tune with no-mind, all will be well."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Short paragraphs before each poem. A nice introduction to the history of the collection. And the Chinese text is included with the English poems. The author did a nice job, and it's a legacy worth sharing.
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Format: Paperback
"Daughters of Emptiness" is a fascinating volume of Chinese Buddhist poetry, written by nuns over the centuries. It begins with the Six Dynasties, and ends with the Qing Dynasty, the era of The Last Emperor. While the women may differ over the millennia, their poetry retains some basic themes on solitude, emptiness, and to a certain extent, self-centeredness. The introduction is helpful in providing context for the spiritual lives of Buddhist nuns.

The poems in "Daughters of Emptiness" verge on haikus, since they are of Chan Buddhism. Chinese Chan Buddhism became what we now know as Zen when it migrated eastward to Japan and was the dominant form of spirituality for the warrior class/samurai. The opening poem is by Huixu, with her spare poem that goes "Worldly people who do not understand me/ Call me by my worldly name Old Zhou. You invite me to a seven-day religious feast, But the feast of meditation knows no end." During the second half of the Qing Dynasty, Yinhui of Jiangsu Province writes, "The activity-consciousness of over 40 years tossed away, as suddenly I raised the jeweled sword as if I were a hero. My shouts cause the 3000 buddhas to topple over, and the great universe to be contained in a single hair!" Kedu, who was at the Lianhua Convent in Zhejiang Province, chose the religious life after she saw her father's corpse. She wrote, "Drop off the body: the river of the world will never end, stately and grand: nothing to show but the inner master. When morning comes, change the water, light the incense, everything is in the ordinary affairs of the ordinary world."

The poems are usually centered on the fleeting nature of the world, and the beauty of Nature.
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I found the poetry to be rather difficult for me to understand, perhaps because of the tranlations into English. This volume needs far more than 1 or 2 readings to grasp its importance and messages.
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