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Letters of Advice for a Buddhist Queen of Tibet: Female Empowerment, Tantric Statecraft, and Contested Reputations
Lecture | January 24 | 5-6:30 p.m. | Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor), Conference room
Jann Ronis, Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley
At the turn of the nineteenth century the ruler of the powerful kingdom of Dergé in Eastern Tibet was the queen Tsewang Lhamo (d. 1812). This paper explores two epistles written for her by chaplains to the royal family. The conventions of advice for Buddhist kings written from the perspective of exoteric Buddhism are well known to scholars. These Tibetan epistles differ for being addressed to a woman and for operating out of a tantric ethical framework. The two works challenge the mainstream Buddhist views of the inferior spiritual and worldly capabilities of women in terms of esoteric doctrine and mythical precedents of the Buddhas past lives as women. Several key passages from the epistles will be highlighted in this paper. The normative claims made in the letters will be augmented with a profile of the political career and posthumous reputation of this unusually well documented female monarch.
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