Fictions of Enlightenment is the first book to examine the fascinating and intricate relationship between Buddhism and the development of Chinese vernacular fiction. Qiancheng Li brings Buddhist models to bear on the vision, structure, and narrative form of three classics of late imperial literature - Journey to the West, Tower of Myriad Mirrors, and Dream of the Red Chamber - arguing that by fashioning their plots after the narratives of certain Mahayana sutras, the novelists transformed Buddhist concepts into narrative structures. Within the traditional Chinese novel Li even defines a new genre: the fiction of enlightenment. Following a discussion of the often neglected Buddhist milieu in the literary landscape of the late Ming to the mid-Qing period, Li sets the context for the study of the novels. The Buddhist soteriological model was first established by the religion's founder and reenacted in sutras, such as the pilgrimages of Sadaprarudita and Sudhana. In the search for enlightenment, however, another pattern develops, a significant variation that appears to be a subversion of the Buddhist quest. This is characterized by an embrace of the phenomenal world as a result of the Mahayana understanding of the intrinsic relationship between samsara and nirvana. In this context, then, Journey to the West owes much to the model of pilgrimage and variations of it become the philosophical basis of Tower of Myriad Mirrors and Dream of the Red Chamber, which are characterized by movement away from the road and wilderness to the family. The settings of these novels change, corresponding to a shift in emphasis. Tower departs from Journey in its exploration of the tensions between and interdependence of enlightenment and desire. Dream both makes extensive use of the soteriological patterns and subverts them, turning itself into the consummate ""fiction of enlightenment"" and at the same time an elegy of love. Richly documented and researched, Fictions of Enlightenment will inform and instruct those in the fields of Buddhist studies; Chinese literature, religion, and history; and comparative religion and literature.