Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Committee Member(s)

Andrew Macomber
Matthew Francis Rarey


Hair-embroidery, Buddhism, Gender, Technology, Guanyin


Hair embroideries were an entirely female and Buddhist practice in late Imperial China, and thus operate within the bounds imposed on women by societal structures of economy and labor, and moral expectations of Confucianism and Buddhism. This was not a common practice and mostly limited to a few gentry women already connected to the art world through their husband or father (an already small demographic). Recent scholarship on Chinese Buddhist hair embroidered works by the art historian Li Yuhang analyzes them as objects of religious devotion and ritualized practice that involves repetition and incorporating the body to accumulate karmic merit, a core concept of Mahayana Buddhism. I study them both in the religious context and an added layer analyzing them as art objects to explore to what extent women possessed and exercised artistic agency in Buddhist hair embroideries. I explore the medium, iconography, and technique exhibited in the embroidered works that demonstrate artistic choice and innovation of technology.