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April Hughes — Apocalyptic Saviors, Terrestrial Utopias, and Imperial Authority: The Reign of Empress Wu Zetian (690-705CE)
November 4, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: April Hughes, Boston University
This talk examines the association between Wu Zhao of Great Zhou (Empress Wu Zetian) and Maitreya Buddha in a commentary on the Scripture of the Great Cloud (Dayun jing 大雲經, T. no. 387) presented to the throne in 690 just prior to her being declared emperor. The Commentary quotes from Attesting Illumination (Zhengmingjing證明經, T. no. 2879), a non-canonical apocalyptic scripture in which Maitreya appears during the chaos of the apocalypse in order to fight demons and save the wholesome. This apocalyptic worldly savior Maitreya rules over his terrestrial utopia without a Wheel-Turning King—thus he is simultaneously a political ruler and religious teacher. I argue that by associating Wu Zhao with this particular depiction of Maitreya, she can also be seen as embodying both roles.