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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 1.1 (2018): 321–343;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the West)

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Adapting Chinese Buddhism to Religious Life in Contemporary Germany: Challenges and Opportunities in the Twenty-first Century

Carsten KRAUSE
Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg

Abstract: While Buddhist traditions from China have attracted European scholars since the early nineteenth century, Chinese Buddhist practices have not influenced religious life in Europe outside of academic studies. This paper explores why Chinese Buddhism has not resonated in Europe to the same extent as Japanese, Tibetan and Southeast Asian Buddhism. This analysis looks to Germany as one of the biggest European countries with a long history of Buddhism. First, it considers existing institutional structures of Buddhism in Germany. Secondly, it examines the images of Chinese Buddhism within the context of soteriological expectations in German society. Thirdly, it reflects on the context of institutional Buddhism in China and its influence on the transmission of Chinese Buddhism to Germany. Based on these analyses, this paper shows that Chinese Buddhism faced various challenges during its transmission into European society. Despite these challenges, the widely admired traditions, contemporary pluralistic dynamics, and openness to international adaptability also creates growing potential for Chinese Buddhism’s acceptance in Europe.

Keywords: Transmission, contemporary, Chinese Buddhism, Germany, image, expectations, adaptation


About the Author: Carsten Krause specialized in the past and present of Chinese Buddhism since the early 1990s, maintaining an ongoing affiliation with the University of Hamburg. From 1991 to 2001, he studied in Passau, Nanjing, Hamburg, Chia-yi, and then Hamburg again, with the support of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation. While at the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of Hamburg, he participated in a two-year interdisciplinary working group on the ‘Ta-sheng ch’i-hsin lun’ under the guidance of Professor Michael Friedrich and graduated with a master’s degree about Chi-tsang (549–623) in 1997.

From 1997 to 1998, Carsten Krause spent half a year at the Institute of Religious Studies of Nanhua University in Chia-yi. He continued studying Chinese Buddhism at the University of Hamburg and completed his Ph.D. with a dissertation entitled ‘Ch’eng-shih lun—On the Reception and Influence of a Buddhist Text in Medieval China from Kumarajiva to Chi-tsang’.

During his subsequent work at the Senate Chancellery of the City of Hamburg (2002–2006), Carsten Krause wrote an article on interdependencies between state and Buddhism in the People’s Republic of China in 2005–2006, which was published in one book and two journals. Since becoming the director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Hamburg in 2007, he has continued to focus on questions related to the revival of Chinese Buddhism in contemporary China. He organized a symposium entitled, ‘Challenges for the Revival and Future Development of Chan-Buddhist Monasteries in China’ at the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies of the University of Hamburg in 2015, presented papers at various international conferences and recently published an article titled, ‘Search for Traces 1978–2018: On the Development of Contemporary Chinese Buddhism’ in China heute. He has also been offering lectures at the University of Hamburg on the topic of Buddhism in contemporary China since 2017.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.