In this paper, I examine the presentation of animals in medieval Chinese Buddhist biographies. These biographies tell stories about strange animals, whose behavior signals that they are far from ordinary—some local deities, underlings of such deities, or even former friends from a past life. By focusing on two biography collections separated in time by over 100 years, in this paper, I argue that the differing presentation of animals reflects the changing fortunes of Buddhism in China, from its early establishment to its successful reception by the imperial court.
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