“Kunāla's Eyes” (1935), authored by the Chinese Catholic woman writer Su Xuelin (1897–1999), is a play that fuses the reinvented biblical legend of Salomé from modern Europe and the tale of Kunāla from the ancient Sanskrit/Buddhist text Aśokāvadāna. The play transforms Tiṣyarakṣitā, King Aśoka's Queen, who desires her stepson Prince Kunāla and has his eyes plucked out after having been rejected, into a new Salomé. In contrast to other Chinese rewritings of Salomé as the paradigmatic New Woman, the Queen is not a sadistic goddess whose vitality is to be channeled into either nationalism (in romantic-revolutionary national literature) or estheticism/consumerism (in transnational estheticist-decadent literature). The Queen is presented as in spiritual union with the Prince who becomes an itinerant monk. Thanks to the palimpsest nature of the play where two translation campaigns (of Buddhist texts for centuries since the early imperial period and of European literature in nineteenth and twentieth centuries) and three world literatures (Sanskrit, European, and Chinese) overlap, it participated in the Chinese making of religion and challenges the modern Western norms of secularism. Chinese secularism extols the spiritual as selfless devotion to some greater good and prioritizes not interiorized piety of the individual but collectivity and tradition.

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