Religious Experience and Lay Society in T’ang China: A Reading of Tai Fu’s Kuang-i chi, by Glen Dudbridge. Cambridge Studies in Chinese History, Literature and Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. ix+256 pp. Maps. ISBN: 0521482232

Amelia Ying Qin


Drawing upon his knowledge and understanding of literature, book culture, and vernacular culture of pre-modern China, Glen Dudbridge offers, in his unique reading of Kuang-i chi 廣異記 (The great book of marvels), insights into the religious experiences of lay society individuals of eighth century China. However, an inquisitive reader must ask the following questions: Can Kuang-i chi, a medieval collection of tales of encounters with the other world by the minor T’ang Dynasty official Tai Fu 戴孚 (fl. 760-780, chin-shih 757), be used for the purpose of the study of religious culture? How? and to what extent? What approaches would be effective in inquiring such a text and what kinds of conclusions can be drawn? Though not explicitly setting forth these questions, Dudbridge’s work serves as answers to them through explicitly defining the nature of Kuang-i chi to his study, discarding conventional categories and establishing new ones in his analysis, and associating Kuang-i chi to the “vernacular,” instead of official, or “centralized,” religious culture (p.63-4). Using a sharp historical focus on the collection, Dudbridge concentrates on the dynamics of change in religious practices of T’ang Dynasty that is rooted and reflected in such a vernacular religious culture....

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