Faculty Publications

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Anthropology | Buddhist Studies | Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology


The Taiwanese Buddhist monastics in this study confront negative stereotypes that dominate within their wider societal context, and they challenge these stereotypes by positing counter-narratives. After exploring the monastics’ interest in proselytizing both to me and to a wider audience as a context that influences the interview encounter, this chapter focuses on the monastics’ response to negative stereotypes and their endeavors to craft a new, positive image of monastics. I argue that they employ the heroic trope of the da zhangfu (大丈夫, ‘great man’) to reconceive as heroic the life choices they have made that wider Taiwanese society characterizes as immoral. I show that through their life history narratives, and most particularly with the stories of how they decided to chujia (出家, ‘leave home’), renounce the world, and become monastics, they attempt to reframe monastics as people willing to make tremendous sacrifices for the benefit of humanity. I demonstrate that through the strategic use of metaphors, coupled with a reframing of what constitutes moral behavior, monastics’ life history narratives challenge stereotypes that dominate wider Taiwanese discourse.

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).

Original Citation

Hillary Crane
Defining choices redefined: Heroic life narratives of Taiwanese Buddhist monastics.
In Storytelling as narrative practice: Ethnographic approaches to the tales we tell, edited by Elizabeth A. Falconi & Kathryn E. Graber
2019, pages 29-52, Brill: Leiden; Boston



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