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The term Miaowu ziran (wonderous enlightenment, as in the destruction of all duality-based illusions; subuddhi, suśikṣita, and its awakened state of natural being), coined as a neologism by Eastern Jin monk Seng Zhao (384-414) in his commentary of Weimojie jing (Vimalakīrti- nirdeśa-sūtra), epitomizes Seng’s understanding of Mahāyāna Buddhist doctrine and showcases the distinct “Buddhist-Hybrid Chinese” form of the Six Dynasties period.
Following the Eastern Jin period, the Tiantai, Sanlun, Huyan, and Chan schools’ discourses all expounded on Miaowu ziran. The term eventually trickled into Tang dynasty painting theory, first appearing in Lidai minghua ji (Records of Famous Paintings of Successive Dynasties, c.847) as a new expression used to describe the paintings of Gu Kaizhi (c. 344-405). This process marks Miaowu ziran’s evolution from a purely Buddhist idea to a new artistic theory expression. In the Song dynasty, Miaowu ziran continued to be used as a key term of aesthetic theory, gradually subduing its Buddhist connotations.
Despite the importance of this term in medieval period Buddhist doctrine and art theory, there remains little research examining Miaowu ziran’s textual evolution beginning with its emergence in Seng Zhao’s commentary and culminating with its later use in Tang and Song dynasty artistic theory texts. Thus, this paper studies Miaowu ziran’s evolution and eventual shift from a Buddhist term to a term used in aesthetic theory.
This paper examines a group of liturgical manuscripts from Dunhuang, including P. 2058, P. 2915, P. 3149, S. 663, S. 1137, S. 3914, and S. 4537, for understanding Buddhist rituals of creating four mandalas. These rituals consist of a series of programs such as consecrating the ritual space, invoking deities, honoring the Bodhisattvas, feeding the beings in the underworld, and praying for the sentient beings. By analyzing these procedures and programs, this paper aims to reveal four worlds that these rituals manifested. The first one is the Buddhist cosmological world in the ritual, constructed by the consecration and invocation of Buddhist clergies. How was this cosmological world in these liturgical manuscripts locally produced in Dunhuang different from the version in Buddhist canonical sources? The second one is the textual world. The Buddhist community was often viewed as a textual community. In this textual community, texts were materially and verbally produced, introduced, and interpreted. They provided doctrinal foundations and sometimes prescriptions for the ritual programs. The third one is the political and social world in which political agents from both central and peripheral regions played different roles. This paper will discuss who sponsored the rituals and how they and others benefited in different ways from the rituals. The four one is the Buddhist material world. This paper will look into what objects constructed the material foundation for these rituals and how these objects appeared in the Dunhuang area.
敦煌文獻中有一組寫本包括P. 2058, P. 2915, P. 3149, S. 663, S. 1137, S. 3914, S. 4537等等均為圍繞佛頂、隨求、觀音、金光明四種曼陀羅儀式為中心的願文樣板，這些寫本提示了結四種曼陀羅壇的基本程式和發願內容，比如莊嚴道場、啟請神祇入場、莊嚴菩薩、散食施捨、為眾生祈福等等。通過對這一組寫本的細讀和分析，可以揭示其中一系列儀式所反映的四維世界。首先是佛教的宇宙觀，這種宇宙觀來自曼陀羅的基本結構和啟請的諸神。其次是文本世界，儀式中出現了一系列文本的名稱，這些文本是如何進入這些儀式的，又有何影響，值得探討。有些或許只是為了祈福，有些文本的內容或與結壇儀式直接關聯。其三是政治與社會的世界，儀式的舉行雖然局限於特定人群，其祈福對象卻體現了祈福人對於當時政治秩序的家、國、天下的理解和想像。最後一個維度是儀式中所體現的物質世界，結合寫本和敦煌出土的曼陀羅圖像，可以理解儀式中所體現的物品及其象徵意義。
Many Vimalakīrti Sūtra scenes are featured in the murals of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves. The majority of the scenes from Sui to early Tang dynasties are painted inside and outside the niche on the front-facing wall (the western wall). Stucco figure of the Śākyamuni Buddha is placed inside the niche as the principal icon, and the Vimalakīrti Sūtra scene provides supplementary information that the sahā world in which the Buddha exists is in fact an immaculate Buddha-land. On the other hand, after Tang, the placement of the Vimalakīrti Sūtra moves to the eastern and the northern walls. At the same time, the iconography becomes more complex with multiple Buddha-lands of present Buddhas such as Wudong Fo 無動佛 (unperturbed Buddha: Akṣobhya), Dengwang Fo 燈王佛 (Light King Buddha), and Xiangji Fo 香積佛 (fragrance Accumulated Buddha). This paper will consider how Śākyamuni’s Buddha-land was perceived in Tang China by examining the differences between the depiction of the Buddha-lands of the three present Buddhas and that of Śākyamuni Buddha. In addition, the paper will bring attention to the placement of the Vimalakīrti Sūtra scene on the northern wall, explaining how “north” in the Mogao Caves would actually be perceived as the “east,” and that the placement of the Vimalakīrti Sūtra scene towards the “east” connotes the notion that China––located to the east of India––inherits India’s status as Śākyamuni’s Buddha-land.
The Dharma in the human world can be divided into three stages: the period of the true dharma（正法）, the semblance dharma（像法）and the latter dharma（末法）. The concept of Chinese latter dharma was initially developed during the Eastern Jin Dynasty and the Sixteen Kingdoms Period in the 4th century. The discovery of related inscriptions on the stone stupa of the Northern Liang indicates that the concept of the Latter Dharma has spread widely in the Hexi Corridor and has affected the behavior of the common disciples. After the 6thcentury, the ideology of the Latter Dharma was extremely popular. Many sutras described in detail the division of the three stages about the true dharma, the semblance dharma and the latter dharma, and all kinds of evils in the era of the Latter Dharma. Under this background, a large number of Buddhist Stone-Caved Scriptures appeared in the north china, forming two densely-distributed regions in the Hebei（河北）area centered on Yecheng鄴城and Shandong山東area centered on Mount Tai泰山. In the form and function, the Stone-Caved Scriptures not only inherited the early purposes of display, chanting, meditation and even accumulated merit, but also gave it an important connotation to protect the Dharma, preserve the image, and guard against the extinction of Dharma.
The Amitabha faith could be traced back to the period of the Kushan Empire. After the 3rd century, the important classics of Amitabha belief, “Aparimitāyur-sūtra“（《無量壽經》）, “Amitāyur-dhyāna-sūtra“（《觀無量壽經》）, and “Sukhāvati-vyūha-sūtra “（《阿彌陀經》）were translated successively. In the meantime, as the Lord of the Western Pure Land, Amitabha used to appear in the grottoes and statues of the 5thcentury. In 529, Bodhiruci（菩提流支）translated the “Sukhāvatī-vyūhopadeśa “（《無量壽經優波提捨願生偈》）in Luoyang. Since then, the “Three Sutra and One Abhidharma”（三經一論）of Amitabha belief was hereby completed, and the Western Pure Land ideology began to prevail in the official and folk. In the late Northern Dynasties, various Buddhist thoughts gathered together and flourished in Yecheng. The Mahayana Pure Land belief represented by Amitabha and Maitreya was based on the tradition of the Northern Wei Dynasty and spread widely in North China. As the capital of the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi Dynasties, there are a large number of Buddhist grottoes in Yecheng and surrounding areas, including the South and North Xiangtangshan grottoes南北響堂山石窟, Shuiyusi grottoes水浴寺石窟, Wahuanggong grottoes（媧皇宮石窟）in Hebei Province, and Lingquansi grottoes靈泉寺石窟, Xiaonanhai grottoes小南海石窟and Honggusi grottoes（洪谷寺石窟）in Henan Province. In recent years, thousands of Buddhist statues have been discovered and excavated in Yecheng site, including hundreds of inscribed statues. It is worth noting that these grottoes, statues and inscriptions retain some engraving and image content related to the Pure Land belief, which provide important data for exploring the evolution of the Amitabha worship and the Pure Land image in the late Northern Dynasties. On the other hand, the Latter Dharma thought prevailing in the late Northern Dynasties was imprinted deeply on the various Buddhist schools in this period. Daochuo道綽and Shandao善導, the famous masters of the Pure Land in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, preached the Pure Land Teaching according to the Latter Dharma thought of the “Candragarbha-sūtra“（《大集月藏經》）, which produced far-reaching influence on later Buddhism. In the early Buddhist terminology, “this shore” and “other shore” originally referred to the shore of the delusion and the other shore of enlightenment or Nirvana, and gradually developed into the concept of the present world of the Latter Dharma and the Paradise of the West. This trend is also reflected in the image material of the West Pure Land which was perfected increasinglyfrom the late Northern Dynasties to the Sui and Tang Dynasties.
By collating relevant literatures, and combining the grottoes, Stone-Caved Scriptures, statues and inscriptions related to the Pure Land belief in Yecheng and surrounding areas, this paper explores the intrinsic connection between Chinese Latter Dharma ideology and Pure Land belief and its significance in Buddhist history.
This paper will focus on the gilded silver xiangnang (sachet) from Famensi, a Buddhist temple in the Famen town of the Tang Dynasty. This is one of the largest xiangnang found in the Tang dynasty. The style of its metalwork and its technique originated from beizhong xianglu (incense burner inside the quilt) mentioned in Xijing Zaji (Miscellaneous Records of the Western Capital) as early as the Han dynasty. The openwork floral design on the outside of the xiangnang influenced many later design media in Chinese art. Furthermore, the gyroscope-like stabilizer inside the xiangnang looks like Kepler’s drawing of the “Polyhedral Model of the Planetary Intervals” from Mysterium cosmographicum. The stabilizer inside the xiangnang also predates the invention of the gyroscope for maritime navigation in Europe. This paper will discuss the xiangnang’s relation to the ritual of incense burning (as a way to reach another world); to the polyhedron (and the Keplerian universe); to the gyroscope (to facilitate seafaring); and ultimately to worldmaking.
During the 740s, Japanese emperor Shōmu 聖武 (701-756, r. 724-749) endorsed a plan to establish Buddhist temples in nearly all the provinces (kokubunji 国分寺) where three Mahāyāna scriptures were ritually chanted to marshal apotropaic powers and avert natural disasters including pestilence, draughts, and earthquakes. The Great East temple (Tōdaiji 東大寺) in the recently constructed Heijō capital 平城京 (Nara) was the head temple of this state sanctioned network. The formal name for these temples where monks resided is Temples of Bright Golden Light and Four Heavenly Kings to Protect the State (Konkōmyō shitennō gokoku no tera 金光明四天王護国之寺). As the formal name suggests, the principal Mahāyāna Buddhist scripture followed in these temples was the Golden Light Sūtra (Jinguangming zuishengwang jing 金光明最勝王經, Suvarṇabhāsottama-sūtra), translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Yijing 義淨 (635-713) and his translation team in Tang (618-907) China at the beginning of the 8th century, and its particular chapters about how rulers can be protected by the Four Heavenly Kings. The political and religious worldmaking enterprise entrusted to these temples by the nascent Japanese government in Nara has been well-known since M.W. de Visser’s Ancient Buddhism in Japan was published in 1935. But the fate of state protection temples and particularly the surprisingly small one overlooking the once-capital (667-672) of Ōtsu 大津 called Bonshakuji 梵釈寺, which was renovated following orders by emperor Kanmu 桓武 (735-806, r. 781-806) in 786, during and after the introduction of novel rituals to protect the state from China through the 9th century has received little attention, even by scholars in Japan. This paper investigates the early history of Bonshakuji as a Temple of Bright Golden Light and Four Heavenly Kings to Protect the State, and especially the library kept there, which came to rival only that of Tōdaiji through the 12th century. I also examine how and why scholar officials and powerful monastics, particularly associated with the so-called esoteric (mikkyō 密教) Tendai 天台宗 and Shingon temples of Enryakuji 延暦寺 and Miidera 三井寺 (Onjōji 園城寺) and Tōji 東寺 and Daigoji 醍醐寺, respectively, utilized the library of Bonshakuji and older and novel texts state protection kept there to preserve early Japanese state-supported Buddhist worldmaking efforts long after that state had become virtually bankrupt. A key comparative question raised in this paper concerns how medieval East Asian states—Tang China, Silla Korea (668-935), and Nara- and Heian-era (ca. 710-1185) Japan—used the cosmology specifically outlined in Yijing’s translation of the Golden Light Sūtra to construct and maintain both Buddhist and so-called Confucian-styled political, economic, and religious stability during seemingly-unmanageable circumstances.
The Moon appears in the early Buddhist canon as a celestial body orbiting around Mt. Meru while at the same time being a god (Candra or Soma). The Moon later appears in Abhidharma literature, in which it is described as a mobile residence for the lunar deities. Following the introduction of Mantrayāna practices into China, the Moon appears in maṇḍalas and other illustrated forms, yet these representations are not uniform. For instance, we see Candra as a driver of a chariot pulled by geese in one instance, and then the Moon as an elegantly attired goddess elsewhere. At the same time, esoteric interpretations apply symbolic and metaphorical meanings to the Moon, while astrology and the seven-day week understood the Moon in a whole other way. To complicate matters further, traditional Chinese metaphysics held its own interpretation of the Moon as the Great Yin (Taiyin 太陰). As a result of these diverse views, the Moon in the East Asian Buddhist worldview became a multifaceted figure simultaneously embodying different concepts from various time periods. The proposed study will chronologically survey the Moon as a celestial body and god/goddess in the Chinese Buddhist worldview and attempt to document its evolution over the centuries.
This article traces the transformation and spread of the four-pointed cape, a unique costume of ancient Gandhāra, from a trans-disciplinary perspective. It interprets this cape, which first appeared on sculptures of Kushan nobility by the third-fourth century and then became an item of idealized clothing symbolizing Buddha’s authority from the fifth century onward, as a visual clue to the interactions between the secular and the Buddhist world. This article also categorizes specimens of the cape from eastern Afghanistan and Greater Kashmir, the sixth century onward, and points out the formal features of the capes from different typology catalogs that reveal Gandhāran, Iranian, or Indian influences and the zonal styles burgeoning in post-Gandhāran northwest India. It finally proposes that this kind of costume, as an iconographic element, was exported along the Silk Road to Central Asia, China, and probably the Byzantine Empire: a dynamic process that demonstrates the vitality of the Gandhāran material culture and the transculturality of Asian Buddhist worldmaking.
The non-theistic worldview of Buddhism has no place for a Creator God, and yet the representations of certain Buddhist deities make tantalizing comparisons, among whom Vairocana stands out as the closest counterpart. In East Asian Buddhism, Vairocana is closely associated with the Avataṃsaka Sūtra [Huayan jing 華嚴經; Flower Garland Sūtra] and is interpreted by the Avataṃsaka exegetes as omnipresent, omnipotent and identical to the universe itself. Does such interpretation reveal an accidental point in common across religious traditions? Or does it offer only a surface semblance disguising a deeper chasm?
Starting with this comparative questioning, I then reverted my attention to the Chinese Buddhist tradition itself, and specifically to Huayan Buddhism, a tradition developed around the exegesis of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. I retraced the evolution in the way Huayan exegetes interpreted Vairocana before arriving at a point in time when such interpretation acquired a mature metaphysical framework. That is, the time of the Chinese Buddhist metaphysician Fazang 法藏 (643-712) who crystallized an entire metaphysical system inspired by the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, with Vairocana and its Ten Bodies embodying the core tenets of this metaphysical paradigm. By laying bare how Fazang expresses his worldview through Vairocana and its Ten Bodies, I wish to achieve dual aims: first, to find a new way to express Fazang’s metaphysics through exploring Fazang’s interpretation on an exegetical theme; and second, to extract a metaphysical paradigm surrounding Vairocana that could serve as the basis for an inter-religious dialogue.
In returning to my comparative reflection, I acknowledge the elements of reification that are indeed observable in Fazang’s interpretation of Vairocana — elements that approach Vairocana to the monotheistic God, and yet, I situate such reified elements within Fazang’s overall metaphysics which constantly seeks a “round”, “fluid” causality between “being” and “emptiness”, between the phenomenal and the noumenal. In this Huayan universe marked by a radical sense of fluidity, of interpenetration, Vairocana is thus safe to be expediently reified, for its solidity is tempered as soon as we consider its Ten Bodies which involves themselves in an incessant interplay with Vairocana — the kind of dynamics that forestalls any conception of a reified creator.
This paper focuses on The Journey to Find Previous Lives to explore the configuration of power in the transcultural imagination: How does it perform China/East Asia and the Other? Whose interest/agency is the hybridization advancing? How does the hybridization address existing cultural hegemony? How does it respond to both global and regional cultural trends?
My paper contends that this novel employs Buddhist concepts to resolve the conflicts between the local and the global, the dominant and the subordinate in cross-cultural encounters. By doing so, it recodifies self and others and reveals the interconnectedness in our very existence. Thus, the novel unites people across national/ cultural boundaries and time periods via a universality that is rooted in Buddhist philosophy.
This paper looks at the representation of multispecies ecojustice that emerges out of the work of the Buddhist artist Feng Zikai 豐子愷(1898–1975). In 1929, Feng published the first volume of Paintings on the Preservation of Life (Husheng huaji 護生畫集), an impassioned and visually compelling exploration of the concept of husheng that started off as a collaboration with his mentor Li Shutong 李叔同 (1880–1942), the famous artist and intellectual who became a Buddhist monk. The work on the Paintings spanned several decades of Feng’s life — the last volume was completed in 1973 and published posthumously — and comprises of some four hundred and fifty paintings. These texts, I argue, aim to subvert the separation between “human” and “animal” and between “nature” and “culture”. While several other Chinese intellectuals investigated the idea of “being human” under the changed historical conditions of modernity, Feng Zikai’s Buddhist-inspired approach to non-human personhood creatively probes some of the basic rationalist premises of humanism.
In their inscriptions for the halls of the White Lotus movement in the Southern Song and Yuan period, literati criticized the adherents for imagining the Pure Land as something concrete and tangible. They saw it more as an inner goal or state. Nonetheless, for many the Pure Land was a very concrete place that could be reached in a variety of ways. In this paper I will investigate how the Pure Land was imagined, both in miracle stories, ritual practices and the writings of new religious groups.
Several sites in East Asia have been identified as Potalaka originally thought to be located near the southern seas of India. The belief in the abode of Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva on Earth connects various places throughout East Asia and incorporates them into a Buddhist world transcending borders. The most well-known among these sites are Putuoshan in China, Naksan-temple in Korea and Nachi in the Kumano region of Japan.
The fact that a mythological place is connected to several geographical locations indicates that Potalaka is not only regarded as an actual place but also bears a symbolical meaning. The belief in manifestation of divine places on Earth is closely related to the relationship between myth and reality or sacred and profane, suggesting a holistic worldview based on unity rather than duality.
The basis of this phenomenon is built upon the nature of Avalokiteśvara as a mediator between sentient beings and Buddhas, the characteristics of Potalaka as a boundary between their worlds, and Buddhist philosophy. The mahāyāna idea of the non-duality of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, the thought of mutual interrelatedness in Tiantai and Huayan Buddhism and indigenous Chinese philosophical concepts like correlative resonance (ganying) all contributed to the formation of Avalokiteśvara bodhimaṇḍas.
In this presentation I would like to examine Potalaka faith in China, Korea and Japan, addressing the similarities and differences between them based on the historical and religious background of these countries. Despite the obvious resemblance, there are significant differences between these sites in terms of why and how they were formed, and in what way did they change due to local beliefs.
The research of Potalaka faith can help us to rethink the relationship between human and nature and find a healthier balance between them in a modern society dominated by materialistic worldview. At the same time, we can get a glimpse on international cultural exchanges and the relationship between Buddhism and local religions in the East Asian region.
The ontological reality of the world has been a controversial topic among different Buddhist schools. Specifically, the Yogācāra school provides the answer to the world-making issues from an epistemological perspective. In the view of Yogācāra, the so-called world is not a substantial entity, but rather a mental construct of the perceiver and the perceived. Among a number of different accounts of cognitive process, the process of “conceptualization” clearly plays an important role. The term “prapañca”, usually translated as “conceptual proliferation” by scholars, refers to a proliferating process that constructs the perceptual world through discrimination and verbalization. The term has been extensively studied based on the Early Buddhism doctrines, but scholars have paid much less attention to its connotations, usages, and extensions in the Yogācāra context. This paper begins with a compilation on the accounts of the cognitive process in the Yogācāra doctrines as well as in those earlier teachings which has a profound impact on the establishment of the Yogācāra school. The research then analyses and discusses the process of conceptualization in those accounts, examining its significant role in shaping the perceptual world.
世界的本體問題即使是在不同的佛教宗派之間都有極大的爭議，而瑜伽行派則具體地從認識論的角度對世界的塑造問題提供了答案。在瑜伽行派看來，所謂世界並非一個實體，而是感知者與被感知物在互動中的心理構建。在眾多對於認知過程的描述中，「概念化」過程顯然起著重要的作用。 “prapañca”一詞，通常被學者譯為「概念增殖(conceptual proliferation)」，是指通過不斷分化和產生語言來構建感知世界的增殖過程。這個詞在早期佛教教義中的意涵得到了廣泛的研究，但它在瑜伽行派語境中的含義、用法和外延得到的關注卻較少。本文首先對瑜珈行派、及對瑜珈行派產生深遠影響的早期教義中所記載的認知過程進行了整理匯總；然後，通過分析和討論這些過程中對概念化的闡述，探究其在形塑感知世界中所起到的重要作用。
In the 19th century, British archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham successively discovered the remains of the Dharmaguptakas school in Gandhara, namely a Buddhist monastery in Jamalgarhi. Further, when the Indian Archaeological Survey continued to excavate this monastery’s site in 1920-1921, they discovered a corner stele with an inscription that stated: “Jamalgarhi, inscribed in 359”. Prof. Lüders attributed the content of this inscription to the Dharmaguptakas. In 2012, with the funding of the Japanese government and UNESCO, archaeologists continued to excavate the ruins of this Buddhist monastery. They discovered new cultural relics, including numismatic evidence from the King Huvisha period, providing further information for the dating of this Buddhist monastery. In addition, the discovery of the inscriptions and ruins of the monastery’s old site has confirmed the inference that the Dharmaguptakas were active in ancient northwest India. Based on the above studies, this article attempts to conduct an in-depth analysis of the layout of the above-mentioned Buddhist monastery by comparing its site and archaeological evidence with textual sources from the Chinese translation of the “Dharmagupta-vinaya” to argue that this monastery can be identified as belonging to the Dharmaguptakas tradition.
本文將重點考索10世紀以前絲路中亞段的佛教圖書館（經藏）。中央歐亞的絲路可分為東中亞（Eastern Central Asia）和西中亞（Western Central Asia，西域）兩個部分，這片區域橫貫了”一帶一路”沿線的中亞五國，大中亞視野中的阿富汗東北部、巴基斯坦北部地區以及中國的新疆和甘肅西北。根據佛教從天竺傳往漢唐西域的路線，從扼守中亞的大犍陀羅（Greater Gandhara）地區開始，沿著中央歐亞的數條絲路商道，筆者將分別探尋中亞的哈達（Hadda）、賈拉拉巴德（Jalalabad）、巴米揚（Bamiyan）、吉爾吉特（Gilgit）、卡拉切配（Kara Tepe）、布哈拉（Bukhara）、以及西域絲路的要衝疏勒（喀什 Kashgar）、龜茲（庫車 Kucha）、焉耆（Karashahr）、高昌（吐魯番 Turfan）、于闐（和田 Khotan）、精絕（尼雅 Niya）、樓蘭（Kroraina）以及敦煌等地的佛教寫本經藏的蹤跡。在此基礎之上，本文將嘗試探討絲路中亞段的佛教圖書館和絲路支線的塔克西拉（Taxila）、迦濕彌羅（Kasmira）以及其他印度佛教圖書館之間的聯繫。
Despite the prohibition on killing sentient beings in Buddhism, biological materials are not unusual on early Japanese Buddhist icons and ritual artifacts. The seventh-century Tamamushi Shrine, one of the most important artifacts of early East Asian Buddhism, offers a particularly spectacular example, as its exterior is covered by the elytra of over two thousand tamamushi beetles (“jewled beetles,” Chrysochroa fulgidissima). While previous scholarship treats the beetle wings as mere decorative elements, this paper argues that they destabilize and complicate our very understanding of early Buddhist material culture in Japan. My analysis will situate the shrine in the larger context of the transmission of Buddhism from the continent to Japan so as to explore the rationale behind the repeated acts of violence entailed in decorating the Tamamushi Shrine with thousands of beetle wings. I will establish the link between the artifact and socio-political, technological, and ecological changes in seventh-century East Asia facilitated by the introduction and localization of Buddhism. Anchored in this transformative historical period, the Tamamushi Shrine constitutes a complex worldmaking device that actively shapes animal-human relationships, models of ideal kingship, as well as religious and social responses to natural disasters such as droughts and epidemics.
In the American midcentury, Anglo American cultural producers grew interested in Buddhism because it offered tools useful for the building of a new poetics and for the building of counterculture. Yet because of their specific uses for Buddhism, they misread the world-building actions of their Japanese American Buddhist friends and allies. Mistakenly seeing Japanese American Buddhist modifications, translations, and adaptations as too “Protestantized” and therefore “uninteresting,” white cultural producers like Alan Watts disqualified Asian American Buddhist individuals and communities from being a part of the building of counterculture–indeed, from helping to construct the future of Buddhism in the United States. This paper valorizes the world-building actions of midcentury Japanese American Buddhist communities and argues that these actions should be seen both as a transformation of the sangha and as strategies for survival in a white supremacist society. The paper further shows how the Anglo American “disqualification” arose out of a certain “Maker ethos,” which involved the false assumption that all East Asian cultural materials were equally available for appropriation and extraction. By underscoring the unique world-building actions of Asian American individuals and communities, we can expand our understanding of this pivotal moment of Buddhist world-building beyond the work of white cultural producers.
In the capitals in Medieval China, the spatial presentation and interaction of political authority and religious force has always been a significant topic. In Chinese political tradition, political status is not only related to bureaucratic hierarchy but also related to the spatial distance from the center of absolute power.
On the politically spatial distribution of capitals, the multi-palace system in the capitals of Qin and Han (BCE.221-CE.220) still relied more on the huge palaces on the base of high platform to present their magnificence, although some localized axes had already appeared; until to the capitals, Yecheng and Luoyang in Wei Dynasty(220-266), the single-palace system and the central axis through the capital connected the most important political and ritual spaces into a whole. The Heaven Alter and the Taiji Palace which symbolized the highest imperial power occupied the north and south ends of this power axis. However, from the limited historical records, Buddhist monasteries from Eastern Han to West Jin Dynasties (25-317), such as White Horse Monastery (Baima Si), etc., are mostly far away from this power axis, even located outside the core area of the capital. In Northern Wei (386-534), the locations of Buddhist monasteries, especially the imperial monasteries, such as Yongning Monastery, Jingming Monastery and double monasteries of Qintaishanggong in Luoyang, were considerably close to the central axis of capital, distributed on both sides of Bronze Camels (Tongtuo) Avenue. The Zhaopengcheng Buddhist Monastery and the Dazhuangyan Monastery in Yecheng of Northern Qi (550-577) and the Changgan Monastery in Jiankang ,the capital of Liang (502-557) are also located on the east side of the central axis of the capital city, similar to the location of Jingming Monastery. In short, the important Buddhist monasteries and pagodas in the capital during the Northern and Southern Dynasties had already been considerably planned to approach the power axis of the capital, and became important religious and political landscapes. In the parade of Buddhist statues (Buddhist Carnival) on the eighth of the fourth lunar month (the birthday of Buddha), Buddhist factors even temporarily occupied the political axis of Luoyang in Northern Wei to reveal the deep integration of Buddhism and imperial power.
As for the capital planning of Chang’an and Luoyang in the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907), there were still many large imperial Buddhist monasteries close to the central axis (such as the Daxingshan Monastery and Jianfu Monastery, etc.) in Chang’an of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). However, there was no further breakthrough in Buddhist architecture, to occupy the political axis of the capital for a long time. A remarkable turning point happened during the reign of Empress Wu (690-705), the Bright Hall (Wanxiangshengong), a Confucian ritual building including obvious Buddhist factors and the Heaven Axis (Tianshu), which was closely related to the Ashoka Pillar, were located in the geometric center of the palace city and the island between the Tianjin Bridge and Duan Gate, to occupy the most prominent position in the political axis of Luoyang as the sacred capital, symbolizing the center of the world. The Heaven Hall (Tiantang) mainly built by Xue Huaiyi (662-695), accommodating a huge Maitreya Buddha statue in it, was located to the northwest of the Bright Hall, corresponding to the “qian” position symbolizing heaven in the Posterior Eight Diagrams. More importantly, if the political axis of Luoyang, the sacred capital of Empress Wu (624-705, r. 690-705), was extended to the south. Its southern endpoint was the Longmen Grottoes on the west bank of Yi River. In other words, in the capital of Empress Wu, the Buddhist space and buildings including Buddhist factors were no longer limited to “giving up the main axis and occupying the two compartments”, to locate on both sides of the political axis, or temporarily occupied this pollical axis at the certain specific time closely related to Buddhism, but composed this political axis itself by the way to construct some permanent memorial and ritual buildings, as a significant part of political expression in the capital. The most symbolic and representative so-called “Seven Heaven Architectures” on the political axis of Luoyang during the reign of Empress Wu, including Tiantang (Heaven Hall), Tiangong (Bright Hall), Tianmen (Yingtian Gate), Tianshu (Heaven Axis), Tianjin (Tianjin bridge), Tianjie (Heaven avenue), and Tianque (Longmen Grottoes in Yique Valley), the buildings (or grottoes) with clear Buddhist factors had taken four in these seven. The seven precious of Chakravartin displayed impressively in the Bright Hall of Empress Wu also symbolized the deep involvement of Buddhist political culture in the power core with the most political symbolic meaning.
However, the fires that happened in the Bright Hall and the Heaven Hall considerably presented the decline of Buddhist factors in this political axis. After Emperor Xuanzong (685-762, r. 712-756) got absolute power, he took a series of actions to rebuild the Bright Hall and destroy the Heaven Axis. They marked the fundamental reshaping of the landscape of the political axis in Luoyang, to remove the Buddhist factors from it as much as possible. Marked by this dramatic and fundamental transition, the positions of Buddhist architecture in Chang’an and Luoyang had once again returned to the situation of being on the side (especially on the east side) of the central axis during the Northern and Southern Dynasties; the imperial monasteries in Kaifeng, the capital of Northern Song (960-1127), such as Daxiangguo Monastery, also continued this tradition, located in a similar place. To sum up, the Buddhist factors in the sacred axis of the capital in Medieval China experienced a procedure of increasing and decline. It began in the late Southern and Northern Dynasties, reached its peak in the Empress Wu’s period, and changed dramatically after the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, to return the situation in the late Southern and Northern Dynasties and early Tang, to show the tortuous process of the interaction between Buddhism and political space in Medieval China.
While the extant scholarship on 20th-century Chinese Buddhism has focused on how Buddhist modernizers revolutionized (Mahayana) Buddhism, this paper rejects such characterization of Buddhism as a timeless fixture subject to changes brought by modernity. By disrupting the conventional distinction between “Mahayana” and “Theravada,” it locates the making of Mahayana distinction as a critical site of modern Chinese state-building campaigns and Cold War politics. With previously untapped Buddhist journals and governmental documents, I argue that the Mahayana distinction was strategically employed in numerous Chinese world-making enterprises from the World War II to the early Cold War. In this process, “Mahayana” shifted from being the hallmark of Japanese Buddhism to a reference to communism (via the Soviet Union), thus pitting Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, and Burma into opposite camps of “Mahayana” or “Theravada.” Nevertheless, the label of Mahayana gradually lost in circulation in China since the late 1950s, becoming subjugated to the novel concept of pan-Asianism. By the same token, with the decolonization of Southeast Asia in the 1960s, Buddhist scholars around the world argued for the unification of Mahayana and Theravada and championed a universal Buddhist teaching. Whereas the Mahayana distinction gained currency in the ideological clash between capitalism and communism, it was supplanted by a more radical reimagination of Buddhism in a global decolonial moment with China as a key participant. By excavating the hitherto unknown history of “Mahayana” and “Theravada,” this paper places Buddhism at the heart of a series of Chinese world-making projects that profoundly shaped China’s position in the postwar Asian religious landscape.