Alan Cole's Fathering Your Father offers a provocative rereading of a “text family” associated with the construction of early Chan Buddhist lineages during the Tang dynasty. Across six chapters, the book traces the collective manufacture of a literary tradition in which the claim to Chan dharma transmission figured as the central theme. Unlike many books on the early history of Chan, Fathering Your Father is not characterized by excessive evidential study of Dunhuang manuscripts and engagement with the meticulous works of Chinese and Japanese scholars. Rather, Cole's strength lies in his sensitivity to larger issues in the history of religion and postmodern thought. His sophisticated reading of texts, influenced by thinkers such as Nietzsche, Lacan, and Bourdieu, undoubtedly enriches the academic discourse on the history of Chan.

As the subtitle of his book suggests, Cole is deeply skeptical of the traditional assumption that early Chan texts offer a more or...

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