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Old Society, New BeliefReligious transformation of China and Rome, ca. 1st-6th Centuries$
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Mu-chou Poo, H. A. Drake, and Lisa Raphals

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190278359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.001.0001

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Understanding Retribution in a Changing Religious Landscape

Understanding Retribution in a Changing Religious Landscape

The Case of Yan Zhitui 顏之推‎ (531–591 CE)

Chapter:
(p.231) 14 Understanding Retribution in a Changing Religious Landscape
Source:
Old Society, New Belief
Author(s):

Natasha Heller

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.003.0015

This chapter considers ideas of sin, retribution, and injustice from the introduction of Buddhism to China to 600 CE. The concepts of karma and transmigration are usually considered among the most significant contributions Buddhism made to religious belief in China, but these ideas were understood within an existing framework of how transgressions were handled in both the human and superhuman realms. This chapter examines the interaction of these new and old discourses by focusing on the sixth-century collection known as Annals of Avenging Spirits (Yuanhun zhi 冤魂志‎), compiled by the eminent literatus Yan Zhitui 顏之推‎ (531–591 CE). This chapter considers how this concept of injustice is in dialogue with both pre-Buddhist and Buddhist texts on sin, revenge, and retribution. It discusses how instances of injustice fit into narrative and the degree to which injustice as a plot device also functions to model moral thinking about misdeeds and retribution.

Keywords:   retribution, sin, religious justice, social morality, karma, transmigration

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