Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Keller Kimbrough

Second Advisor

Laurel R. Rodd

Third Advisor

Faye Y. Kleeman


This thesis examines the use of the female snake transformation trope, particularly in two sekkyō works, Sayohime and Chūjōhime gohonji. The woman who transforms into a giant serpent due to delusive attachment is an iconic figure with a long history in Japanese literature, and while it has often served as an expression of the inherent sinfulness of women, it has also been used to create a powerful message of salvation for women Sayohime and Chūjōhime gohonji are excellent examples of such a use, and by examining the ways the snake-woman trope affects the narrative in each of these works, we gain insight into how such a seemingly misogynistic trope can also have positive significance for women in Buddhism. The introductory chapter lays the groundwork necessary for an analysis of the trope, researching possible origins of the snake-woman from Buddhist and nativeJapanese influences and tracing the development of this trope through the medieval period by focusing on the most famous of snake-woman tales, the Dōjōji legend. Chapters two and three examine the trope as it is used in Sayohime and Chūjōhime gohonji, exploring the foundational elements informing each work and examining the way the presence of female snake-transformation enriches the message of female salvation that is at the heart of both stories.