The Gurudharmas in Buddhist Nunneries of Mainland China


  • Tzu-Lung Chiu University of Gent
  • Ann Heirman University of Gent



Mainland Chinese nuns, gurudharma, vinaya, gender


According to tradition, when the Buddha’s aunt and stepmother Mahaprajapati was allowed to join the Buddhist monastic community, she accepted eight ‘fundamental rules’ (gurudharmas) that made the nuns’ order dependent upon the monks’ order. This story has given rise to much debate, in the past as well as in the present, and this is no less the case in Mainland China, where nunneries have started to re-emerge in recent decades. This article first presents new insight into Mainland Chinese monastic practitioners’ common perspectives and voices regarding the gurudharmas, which are rarely touched upon in scholarly work. Next, each of the rules is discussed in detail, allowing us to analyse various issues, until now understudied, regarding the applicability of the gurudharmas in Mainland Chinese contexts. This research thus provides a detailed overview of nuns’ perceptions of how traditional vinaya rules and procedures can be applied in contemporary Mainland Chinese monastic communities based on a cross-regional empirical study.


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How to Cite

Chiu, T.-L., & Heirman, A. (2015). The Gurudharmas in Buddhist Nunneries of Mainland China. Buddhist Studies Review, 31(2), 241–272.