Faculty Publications

Publication Date



Social and Cultural Anthropology


The traditional Chinese perception of Buddhist monastics is that they choose to renounce the world out of desperation — after failing in the world such that their only options are suicide or the monastery. That this perception of the monastic life persists in Taiwan today is evident in monastics’ own descriptions of their families’ responses to their choice as well as in several recent scandals related to monastic life. Despite the widespread negative perception of monastics, increasing numbers of women are choosing this life. Drawing on extensive fieldwork with relatively new monastics, the author explores the choice Buddhist nuns make to renounce the world they know (and the possibility of leading lives like their mothers, sisters, and friends) and instead embrace the monastic life despite its negative image. The author argues that the nuns’ choice is but a contemporary manifestation of a long-standing tradition of marriage resistance in Chinese culture and explains that, in the process of rejecting their lives as wives and mothers, Taiwanese Buddhist nuns reject their identities as women altogether.

Document Type

Accepted Version


This article is the author-created version that incorporates referee comments. It is the accepted-for-publication version. The content of this version may be identical to the published version (the version of record) save for value-added elements provided by the publisher (e.g., copy editing, layout changes, or branding consistent with the rest of the publication).


This is an electronic version of an article published in Critical Asian Studies, volume 36, issue 4, 2004, pages 265-284. Critical Asian Studies is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14672710410001676061

Original Citation

Hillary Crane
Resisting marriage and renouncing womanhood: The choice of Taiwanese Buddhist nuns.
Critical Asian Studies, 2004, volume 36, issue 4, pages 265-284



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