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  • The Empress and the Heavenly Masters

The Empress and the Heavenly Masters

A Study of the Ordination Scroll of Empress Zhang (1493)

Luk Yu-ping

English , 2015/12 Daoist Studies Series The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Tags: Religious Studies, Daoist Studies Series

229 x 152 x 22 mm , 308pp ISBN / ISSN : 978-962-996-653-9

  • US$45.00

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This book presents the first in-depth analysis of a monumental scroll known as the Ordination Scroll of Empress Zhang, dated 1493, from the collection of the San Diego Museum of Art. Through images and text, this scroll documents the ordination of Empress Zhang (1470–1541), wife of the Ming-dynasty Hongzhi emperor (r. 1488–1505) by a Heavenly Master of Zhengyi Daoism. It is a key source in the study of the history of Daoist ordinations, and a rare surviving record of the relationship between a Ming empress and the Heavenly Masters.

Through detailed analysis of different historical perspectives and the Ordination Scroll itself, this book offers new insights into Daoist practices, Daoist material and visual culture, and the lives of imperial women in Ming China.


By combining a rigorous attention to the specific object with a broad awareness of cultural context, this important book marks a real advance in our understanding of the agency of imperial women in Ming China, and the role of religion in the court culture of the period. It will be of lasting value to all historians of China’s religious and visual culture.

— Prof. Craig Clunas, History of Art Department, University of Oxford


Luk’s important new work studies a rare, one-of-a-kind survival: a handscroll that records the Daoist ordination of a Ming Dynasty empress. Filling a gap in every field it touches, her scholarship represents the most advanced research, calling upon and making profound contributions to the history of China, art, women, religion, and material culture.

—Prof. Suzanne Cahill, History Department, University of California San Diego


Luk skillfully guides us through a lavishly painted handscroll of the Daoist ordination of Empress Zhang and her elevation to the Daoist heavenly realm. Packed with insights drawn from Daoist textual sources and Chinese painting, Luk’s book is an important addition to the short but growing list of serious publications on Daoist art, material, and visual culture.

—Prof. Shih-shan Susan Huang, History of Art Department, Rice University


Luk Yu-ping is Curator of Chinese Collections in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Previously she was Project Curator of the exhibition Ming: 50 Years that Changed China at the British Museum, Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, and Assistant Curator at the University Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include the arts of the Ming dynasty, Daoism, women and the arts, and Chinese ceramics.

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