The Poetry Demon: Tensions within Chinese Buddhist Monks’ Literature
Abstract: Buddhist monks in Song dynasty China were visited by a literary impulse that interrupted religious activities and ritual. This unwelcome muse was sometimes referred to as the demon of poetry. In this talk, I explore some lesser-known intersections of Chinese poetry and the Buddhist path. I read monks’ verse together with prescriptive texts that restricted literary activity, including legal codes, primers, and hagiography. I hypothesize that at the heart of monastic verse culture was the negotiation of competing commitments to Buddhist monasticism and to literary expression.