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The legend of Princess Miaoshan who is considered to be an earthly reincarnation of Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Mercy, has been widely used in Chinese vernacular literature of the late imperial period. The earliest known written version of this story dates back to the early twelfth century, when it was written down by the scholar-official Jiang Zhiqi 蔣之奇 (1031-1104) after a visit to the Xiangshan Temple in Ruzhou 汝州in 1101. The claimed association with the earlier Buddhist figures is not very credible. Still, in the later period this story became a popular subject in Buddhist proselytizing, as embodied in the Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain (Baojuan of Xiangshan, 香山寶卷), the earliest version of which can be dated to ca. thirteenth – fifteenth centuries. The scholars of Chinese Buddhism and literature in several countries have searched for the origins of this story, but not very successfully. The present research suggests a new perspective on looking for the origins of the Miaoshan story, namely the comparative approach of international folklore studies. While contextualizing it in the world folklore sphere, one can discover its similarity with several popular tales spread across Eurasia since comparatively early period. The anatomy of the story in its developed form leads to the hypothesis of its formation in combination of several popular folklore motifs.
The revival of Buddhist activity as seen in the number of monastics, textual production, temple building and repair, and literati interaction with monks, has been the subject of several brilliant studies by Professor Brook. In his magisterial “Praying for Power” he wrote about the late Ming as “a period of revival for institutional religion.” (1993:3) and traced the role of gentry patronage in the revival. In “The Politics of Religion: Late-Imperial Origins of the Regulatory State” (2009) Brook discusses the reasons for the decline that preceded the revival. This talk will use methods from the Digital Humanities to take a closer look at the Buddhist networks of the late Ming. The revival of monastic Buddhism is clearly visible in the network after its equally obvious decline during the Mid-Ming. Moreover, the network perspective reveals a marked difference between the community surrounding the main protagonists of the Wanli revival (Hanshan Deqing, Yunqi Zhuhong, and Zibo Zhenke), and a slightly later group around Miyun Yuanwu and his students. It is this latter group and their form of Chan Buddhism that came to dominate 17th century Buddhism.
Under the influence of Zhuhong 祩宏 (1535-1615) and his disciples, a number of charitable associations emerged in the Jiangnan region from the 16th century onwards. Some of these charitable associations were dedicated exclusively to the practice of the fangsheng ritual, which involved releasing animals after they had been redeemed, in an attempt to save them. Despite the good intentions of those who practiced fangsheng, it was obvious, already in the eyes of the historical actors, that the ritual generated undesirable consequences of an ecological and moral nature. Aware of these drawbacks, local actors took matters into their own hands and wrote rules to regulate both the ritual and the workings of “releasing-life associations” (fangshenghui). In this paper, I will analyze the rules written in several places (Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi mainly) and I will compare them to try to see if they were particular to localities or if, on the contrary, a kind of conformity prevailed. This comparison will also provide an opportunity to appreciate the zoological and organizational knowledge within the associations and to evaluate their members’ skills at self-regulating without any state intervention.
My research on Buddhism has largely been concerned with the localization of Buddhist institutions, that is, their situatedness within the immediate society, economy, and culture of where they existed. To pursue that research, I drew on the evidence of local texts (such as gazetteers) as well as pilgrimage texts. I now wonder whether my use of sources was too promiscuous in overriding the differences between local worshippers organized their lives around one particular religious institution, and pilgrims who toured a site only once. Did the difference in their experience of place entail a different understanding of Buddhism, and if so, was it simply the difference between popular and elite religion, or was it something else? To explore this problem, which I will call tourist Buddhism, I propose to examine sections of two routes in the standard Qing Buddhist pilgrimage handbook, Canxue zhijin (Knowing the fords on the way to knowledge): route 9 to Wudang Mountain in northern Hubei, and route 35 to the Wolf Hills outside Tongzhou on the Yangzi estuary, comparing these accounts with locally-based documentation.
Until the revelation of their presence by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century, the Kaifeng Jews had been Sinicized and Confucianized. Based on a fresh reading of the 1489 and 1512 Kaifeng stelae, this paper contextualizes the Kaifeng Jews’ acculturation in the political agendas and intellectual climate in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century China. It argues that the Ming court, Confucian discourses of cultural and ethnic identity, and administration of religions and ethnic minorities drove the Kaifeng Jews towards biculturalism – adopting the Confucian cultural norms while maintaining their sectarian identity. With the religious toleration by Confucian orthodoxy, the Ming state administered Judaists, Muslims, and other religious practitioners not as religious groups but as “ethnic” groups who needed to settle down in a highly secular and centralized sociopolitical order dominated by the Confucian elite..
20世紀30-40年代，聖母聖心會的比利時籍神父賀登崧（Willem A. Grootaers，C.I.C.M.，1911－1999）將西方語言地理學的理論與方法引入中國，運用到漢語方言學與民俗學的研究中，開創了漢語方言地理學與民俗地理學的研究方法。在傳教之余，賀登崧神父在中國北方（山西大同與河北張家口、宣化、萬全等地）的300多個鄉村進行了大量的漢語方言和民俗文化的調查和研究，先後以法文、英文、拉丁文、日文撰寫了數十篇研究論著和田野調查報告。賀登崧在進行方言、民俗調查時，深感宗教生活對於鄉土社會的重要意義，因此將調查研究的重點逐漸集中到中國的民間宗教上來。他深入鄉村社會，仔細記錄每一座鄉村寺廟的建築、神像、壁畫、碑銘，鄉民的神靈傳說、祭祀組織、崇拜儀式以及華北的秘密宗教流傳情況，保存了非常珍貴的民間文獻和宗教文化遺產。學界向來關注賀登崧在漢語方言地理學上的開創之功，卻對其在中國民間宗教研究上的貢獻較少留意。賀登崧將漢語方言地理學與民俗地理學的研究方法運用到鄉村宗教的調查研究上，筆者以為，或可稱為“民間宗教的地理學研究”。這一研究方法主要體現為兩個特點：一是始終強調中國民間宗教研究中“田野調查法”（the method of field-work）相比“文獻學方法”（the “book” method）的重要性，要求研究者應該深入中國的鄉村社會，在一定的地理範圍內進行小社區的實地考察和研究，強調中國民間信仰文化的地方性傳統；二是通過在地圖上標示特定區域內諸多民間信仰文化現象的不同特徵，劃分出由不同要素確定的文化區域，與方言地圖進行比對，同時將其形成過程置於區域社會的歷史文化情境中加以解釋。賀登崧對中國北方鄉村的龍王廟、五道廟、胡都神信仰和真武廟等個案研究，充分體現了上述兩個特點，這一研究方法與當下流行的區域社會史及歷史人類學研究路徑相通，具有重要的學術價值和啟發性。.
“Taigu School” 太谷學派 is a label invented in 1927 describing a semi-academic and semireligious teaching, variously known as “Taigu Teaching” 太谷教, “Taizhou Sect” 泰州教, “Yellow Cliff Teaching” 黃崖教, “The Great Learning Sect” 大學教, among many other nomenclatures, which is alleged to have been founded by Zhou Taigu 周太谷 (c. 1762–c. 1832) in Yangzhou and continued an esoteric genealogy down to the mid twentieth century. Today, it is commonly accepted as the “last Confucian school” in premodern China, with a strong syncretic characteristic incorporating Buddhist, Daoist, and popular religious beliefs and practices. In Chinese language academia, the study of “Taigu School” has experienced something of a boom since the last decade of the twentieth century, whilst in the English language scholarship it is barely touched upon. This article, based on a chapter of my dissertation “Secret Scroll: The Production of Occult Knowledge in China’s Age of Print” (UC Berkeley, 2021), does not simply fill the gap by contributing an English introduction to the “Taigu School” and its religious claims. Following Professor Timothy Brook’s approach in his Praying for Power, I explore how this esoteric teaching sheds new light on our understanding of the relationship between religious practices and local societies in China’s modern transition. More specifically, I focus on the socalled “Lost Scrolls of the Taigu School” 太谷學派遺書, a corpus of secret scriptures ranging from Zhou Taigu’s analects to the later masters’ treatises, which were canonized in the early twentieth century in Suzhou but remained obscured until the end of the century. First of all, these texts allow us to observe how the “Taigu School” as a “heresy” negotiated survival with different local societies in different historical contexts: Zhou Taigu and his persecution in Yangzhou in the early nineteenth century, the “Northern Master” Zhang Jizhong 張積中 (c. 1805–1866) and his Yellow Cliff community in Shandong province in the mid nineteenth century, the “Southern Master” Li Guangxin 李光炘 (1808–1885) and his continuous vagrancy in Jiangnan in the late nineteenth century, and finally, the “Reunification of the North and the South” in Suzhou in the early twentieth century. Second, and more profoundly, the history of the making of the “Lost Scrolls of the Taigu School” is itself an illuminating case for our understanding of the changing meanings of the “local” in modern China. The Suzhou-based members of the school collected these scriptures and canonized them in the 1930s, yet they also kept them in strict local and esoteric transmission. On the other hand, it was the famous novelist Liu E 劉鶚 (1857–1909, he was a secret member of the teaching) and his descendants who continuously argued with the Suzhou group, advocated for publicizing these texts to the bigger public, and finally made possible the survival of these “lost scrolls” and all accounts about the “Taigu School.”
The turn of the seventeenth century saw a surge in the publication of illustrated hagiographic narratives (chushen zhuan 出身傳) in the book meccas of Jiangnan and Fujian. These commercially-published books, which I term “origin narratives,” recount the miraculous lives of widely-worshiped cult figures, from Buddhist deities and Daoist immortals to Confucian sages and local heroes. Highly-entertaining yet encyclopaedic in scope, origin narratives repackaged the life and lore of their revered protagonists into “vernacular” narratives (xiaoshuo 小說) that seem to have targeted a wide readership. The cultic worship and sacred geographies of the protagonists of origin narratives take center stage in their main narratives and feature prominently in the paratexts of these books (such as prefaces, postfaces, and appendices). While the main texts of these origin narratives provide the hagiographical rationale for the protagonists’ associations with specific ritual traditions and sacred loci, the paratexts of these works offered practical, current information on the reverence of the protagonists. This information included worship manuals and calendars, copies of temple inscriptions, news about temples, and dedications to donors for their patronage of local temples. The inclusion of these “religious” materials in the main texts and paratexts of origin narratives sheds light on the multiple roles that commercial publishers played in late Ming society as cultural agents and producers of knowledge. Origin narratives, I argue, provided commercial publishers with a particularly profitable platform to engage with local cults while promoting their own intellectual and worldly interests.
Demographic changes and depopulation in rural areas are two of the gravest problems that Japanese society faces today. It affects all and every aspect of the Buddhist sects, from their monks (sōryo) to their believers (shinja). Japan is one of the fastest aging countries around the world and although Buddhism was and still is a major religion with more than 40 million registered believers, the statistics show that this number is the result of a sharp decline. Also, these statistics include all new religious organizations which are connected to certain Buddhist teachings but not recognized as the “established” Buddhist sects, such as the Shingon, Tendai, or Shin denominations.
The temple-parishioner system, established in the Edo Period (1600-1868) connected all Japanese families to Buddhist temples and brought about the hegemony of Buddhist funeral rites, and this connection and hegemony still stand, however, changes are cracking that system too. Questionable reactions to government policies at the end of the 19th century and a new family hereditary system in the 20th century reshaped the “established” Buddhist sects. Also, the new religions (shin shūkyō) have the advantage of new and fresh modes of recruiting believers, a more liberal attitude to practice, and looser regulations. In my presentation, I am examining through various examples how the temples of “established” Buddhist sects are responding to the ongoing struggle, e. g. how to secure heirs, get more believers, and therefore keep their temples from closing. The common feature is community-building which is crucial for such temples to invite new people into their halls.
Folk beliefs are an important part of people’s lives and provide solutions to their practical problems. The “Sutra Worship” ritual in Qianku Town, Wenzhou, is a localized religious practice that combines various religious forms such as Buddhism and Taoism. In the “Sutra Worship” ritual, the gold and silver paper “produced” by the people through chanting is not only for their own use, but also transferred to others in the form of trade or gift. In this process, “gold and silver” become an important window into the religious economy, human-god relations and social interactions, coupling rituals with credit mechanisms and forming an overall rule order and conceptual form of village society.
Baohua Mountain 寶華山 is known as a center of vinaya studies and monk ordinations of a nationwide significance. It attracted the attention of such prominent scholars as Johannes Prip-Møller and Holmes Welch, who regarded it as one of the large-scale model monasteries of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper argues that the history of Baohua Mountain in the seventeenth and eighteenth century also deserves academic attention, as it was then that it had earned its fame as a seat of the revived vinaya school (Lüzong 律宗). In particular, Baohua abbot Wenhai Fuju 文海福聚 (1686–1765, abbot in 1722–1765) was a leading figure of the school who compiled its first genealogy as well as a local gazetteer, and through the patronage of Yongzheng Emperor 雍正 (1678–1735; reigned 1722–1735) incorporated the works of earlier Baohua patriarchs into the Buddhist canon and gained control of Fayuan Monastery 法源寺 in Beijing. Apart from that, Wenhai Fuju and his disciples secured support of scholar-officials both with regard to lofty literary compositions and mundane matters of construction and taxation. This array of achievements of Baohua lineage in the eighteenth century clearly resembles the pattern revealed by Dewei Zhang regarding the first stage of Late Ming Buddhist revival, when, spurred by imperial support, a certain monastery would attract further lay patronage and rise to prominence. Thus, this piece of research shows that, under certain conditions, a particular lineage could smoothly continue into the eighteenth century, maintaining and even magnifying the momentum of earlier revival.
In 1864, a village schoolteacher from Sichuan, wrote a text about his ideas on didactics. His name was Liu Hengdian 劉恆典 (1809-1884), and he belonged to the Liumen tradition. Although its followers called themselves Confucians, they were yet another example of the porous demarcation lines between the three teachings. Earlier texts on village schools reflect the ambitions of rulers and administrators. How those were implemented at the local level is not clear. The text by Liu Hengdian is a unique testimony of ‘school reality’ from the viewpoint of a poor teacher. We can hear the voice of someone with personal experience of teaching unruly boys, adapting his teaching to heterogeneous groups of pupils, and finding the right balance between harshness and kindness. However, the vision of Liu Hengdian was not to create a manual for successful pedagogy. His ambitions were higher and deeper. To respect and examine oneself is the Alfa and Omega of his message. From this we can draw the conclusion that, in the 19th century Confucian self-cultivation was not the exclusive practice of scholar officials, but also for teachers at the lowest level in the educational system.
Translated in the sixth century and collected in Chinese Buddhist Canon, the Dhārāni Sūtra for Protecting Children Taught by the Buddha describes the methods for protecting pregnant women, embryos and children. It informs readers about various features of demons who may cause harm and describes the symptoms shown by infected children. It also offers spells and a set of ritual to exorcize the demons. There are seven copies of manuscripts existent from medieval Dunhuang. The postscripts left on these manuscripts help us to reconstruct the historical and ritual scene where these manuscripts were copied and utilized. Scholars have shown that the application of this Buddhist scripture in Dunhuang, instead of being used in the occasion of childbirth, was set against the backdrop of funeral ritual mourning for a deceased mother. The manuscripts were copied to accumulate merits for her in the underworld and to transfer merits to bless her offspring in this world. In contrast, the existent manuscripts of this scripture made in medieval Japan reveals that utilization of the scripture and its ritual occurs in the birth events and mainly follows the method taught in the scripture. Postscripts and a variety of mandala paintings of relevant demons and protective gods were written and drawn side by side together with the textual part. These Japanese manuscripts demonstrate how the ritual of protecting pregnancy and children were carried out between the 12th and 14th centuries and situated into the contemporarily popular scene of Esoteric Buddhism.
The Flowery Monk Lu Zhishen’s legendary story in the 16thcentury classical Chinese novel Water Margin has nourished a lasting fantasy: that a person who has committed a serious crime can enter the Buddhist monasteries or nunneries to become a monk or nun to avoid punishment. This fantasy is still alive in contemporary China. Within the past twenty years, numerous murders in China have tried to use fake identities to become ordained monks to avoid arrest and punishments. Unfortunately, these attempts eventually all failed. One example is Xu Xinlian, a murderer who has spent 15 years living as a Buddhist monk and later became the abbot of Jingci Monastery in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. After his arrest, Xu also received a public trial in the Intermediate People’s Court in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province on April 20, 2012. In this paper, I will discuss the historical development and contemporary reception of this Chinese fantasy over religious institution’s ability to function as sanctuaries for fugitives facing criminal charges.
With a title alluding to Prof. Timothy Brook’s seminal monograph Praying for Power, this paper resonantly aims to explore people’s “power” and “autonomy” as activated by religious
engagement in the second half of the Ming dynasty (16th -17th centuries). However, if the foci of Prof. Brook’s book are on the “gentry society” and the monasteries, this paper instead, examines religious spaces (and/or rituals) that were textualized and transmitted on book pages and their consumption by an emerging reading public (spanning a much wider social swath) during the same historical period. As will be shown, the booming economy and commercial publishing industry in the 16th and 17th centuries drastically transformed the production and dissemination of knowledge. Under this circumstance, the proliferating religious compendia and encyclopedias (leishu) rose to a key mediator between gods and individuals, forcefully wresting previously exclusive authority from religious priests and state functionaries. I, therefore, call for a creative hermeneutics of texts/books as an active agent and mediating spaces between ideological norms and people’s individual interpretation and implementation in daily life. In other words, as
religious spaces and rituals were comprehensively transformed into printed words and images, the hitherto esoteric religious knowledge became increasingly decomposed and popularized, allowing its audience to evoke a personalized pilgrimage or self-directed rituals every time they consumed the printed texts. This “decomposed” and “democratized” religious expertise leads to a paradox of simultaneous consolidation and dilution of religious power. On the one hand, the proliferating religious texts standardized the protocols of the sacred world among an increasingly commercialized earthly society, helping to enact religious homogeneity at the local level. On the other hand, the democratization of the ritual epitome contributed to cultural diversity by allowing lay readers to variously interpret, execute, and appropriate religious symbolism and rituals at will. Fusing the actual and the textual, communal and personal, edyfying and entertaining, the Ming religious encyclopedias afford us a glance at the unprecedented power partaken of by the rising reading public in producing and reproducing a nuanced boisterous religious life in the Ming.
In Late Ming, the small but fast-growing Christian communities faced some local persecutions, but the one of Nanjing in 1616 became nationwide. The Italian Alfonso Vagnone and other Jesuits attributed this persecution to the Buddhists, but historical research tends to discard Buddhism as an important force behind the anti-christian campaign of the local magistrate Shen Que 沈㴶. In 1623, Xu Dashou 許大受, a disciple of Zhuhong 祩宏, started an anti-Christian campaign in Zhejiang, but the Buddhist monks were not directly involved into this campaign which was finally aborted. In the years 1632-1639, Buddhism became the main force behind the persecution in Zhejiang and Fujian, as attested by the writings of influential Buddhist monks like Miyun Yuanwu 密雲圓悟 and Feiyin Tongrong 費隱通容 included in the Poxieji 破邪集 [Collection for the eradication of the heresy] in 1639.
We investigate here a very-little known Buddhist-Christian conflict which happened far-away from the Jiangnan area, in Chengdu in 1643, just before the entrance of the rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong in August 1644. The Italian Jesuit Lodovico Buglio and the Portuguese Jesuit Gabriel de Magalhães had arrived Chengdu respectively in 1640 and 1642, and in their printed writings, they mentioned very briefly the conflict of 1643, which was overshadowed by the massacre by Zhang Xianzhong of the whole population of Chengdu in 1644. The French Jesuit historian Aloysius Pfister in the nineteenth century had access to ancient documents and he has a half-page length description of this conflict, which he attributes mostly to the bonzes of Chengdu. The French MEP François-Marie-Joseph Gourdon had also access to historical documents preserved in Shanghai, and he gave a 6-page account of the conflict in his Shengjiao ruchuan ji 聖教入川記 [Records of the entry of the Holy Teaching in Sichuan], though he understood that the bonzes were in fact Daoist!
In this paper, we investigate a lengthy report (48 pages) written in Portuguese in 1644 by Magalhães which was probably the basis for Pfister and Gordon. We shall analyze the unfolding of the conflict up to its peaceful resolution, and present also the few Chinese documents provided in translation. This preliminary investigation allows us to show that the conflict was indeed launched by the Buddhist monks of Chengdu and also connected with the Buddhists in the Jiangnan area, especially Miyun Yuanwu.
The previous academic paradigm in Buddhist studies regards frivolity as a sign of Buddhism entering a decline in China since the Song. Meanwhile, in literary studies, frivolity was identified as a major aesthetic concern in the genre of ci 詞 poetry which has close relationship to various types of vernacular entertainments during the Song period. Although recent scholarship has challenged the view that Buddhism started to decline during the Song, important questions remain on how to evaluate the interplay between Buddhism and the vernacular culture during this period. This paper examines ci poems attributed to cultural elites Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) and Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 (1045-1105) that playfully incorporates Buddhist themes for a fuller understanding of how the acclaimed literary giants’ Buddhist ties were imagined by vernacular storytellers as entertainments. Such a scrutiny into Buddhism’s influence over these influential literati’s playful image in Song storytelling provides a rare opportunity to understand the intricate dynamics among elite literati culture, religion, and vernacular entertainments in China during the Song period.
Empress Wu Zhao 武曌 (better known in historiography as Wu Zetian) was the first and only woman in Chinese history who obtained the male title of Emperor (huangdi 皇帝) and founded a new dynasty (the Great Zhou 大周 [690–705]). One of the most notable subjects connected with the reign of Wu Zetian was her patronage of Buddhism. According to traditional Chinese notions of power, a state could not be ruled by a woman. This left Wu Zetian few opportunities to justify her claim to the title of Emperor. Hence, Buddhist teaching became one of the main aspects (if not the basis) of a new concept of state power created by the Empress. In this study, I will examine some features of Wu Zetian’s use of Buddhist concepts as reflected in a number of Buddhist sutras’ prefaces attributed to the Empress.
According to the sectarian narratives of the history of vinaya school (lü zong 律宗) in China, by the time of the establishment of the Tang Dynasty in 618, the Shisong lü 十誦律 (Daśādhyāya-vinaya) vinaya tradition had been firmly established on the territories of the former Chen and Sui dynasties. A group of authoritative monks at Tang court advocated for the supremacy of the Sifen lü 四分律 (Dharmaguptaka-vinaya) tradition over the Shisong lü. Due to their efforts, the Sifen lü gradually prevailed as an official vinaya throughout the network of state-supported monasteries in the territorial center of the Tang Empire. Disciples of Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667), a chief promoter of Sifen lü at Tang imperial court, faced a challenging task of unifying the vinaya tradition in the North and in the South.
This paper traces the establishment of the Sifen lü tradition at Kuaiji 會稽 (present-day Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang Province) as part of a larger process of the tradition’s transmission from the North to the South by the first and the second generations of Daoxuan’s disciples. The paper argues that Kuaiji emerged as the first southern major centre where mass ordinations were officiated according to Sifen lü with close reference to Daoxuan’s commentaries, and as a headquarter for the numerous Sifen lü centres that branched off in the regions of Zhejiang, Hunan, Jiangsu and Jiangxi during mid-eighth century. Based on a wide range of sources, such as stelae inscriptions, mountain records and local gazetteers, this paper 1) demonstrates that vinaya authorities, including masters Wen’gang 文綱 (636–727) and Daoan 道岸 (654-717), Daoxuan’s lineal disciples, were key members of the local monastic-secular network at Kuaiji; 2) reveals that a group of powerful officials in the central government hailed from Kuaiji and they facilitated careers of their fellow monastics and officials from their homeland; 3) identifies local monks at Kuaiji who emerged as vinaya leaders in the south. Above all, this study reveals the key role that the Kuaiji monastic-secular community played in the wholesale dissemination of the Dharamaguptakavinaya tradition in southern China during the eighth century.
Liao Buddhism is known for its close relationship with the Huayan teaching. Alongside transmission of standard Tang period texts, the Liao Buddhism developed its own version of Huayan, represented among others by the works of Wuli Xianyan 悟理鮮演 and Yuantong Daochen 圓通道㲀. Here I will discuss another Huayan or “perfect teaching” text, discovered from the Wooden Pagoda. Provisional title is “Questions and Answers on Perfect Teaching”. The text presents a specific representation of the Huayan “doctrinal taxonomy”. While being generally dependent on the traditional Huayan scheme of doctrinal classification, this text offers some new developments, which might be considered local Liao developments.
This paper aims to introduce the small and less studied Buddhist communities in different parts of Bangladesh to the academic world. Like in major Buddhist communities in other parts of the world, the Buddhist communities in Bangladesh too have localized the religion and integrated it into their indigenous cultures. The Buddhist community in the region is not one community, but a collection of different ethnic communities, and their rich religious and social cultures are highly significant in their identities. This paper also highlights these diverse religious and indigenous cultures, and their significance in identifying themselves as Buddhist and their ethnicities within the region.
In the recent development of Buddhism in Bangladesh, the local religious and social cultures have been hugely influenced by other Buddhist cultures in the neighbouring Buddhist countries, such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand. A vast number of young Bangladeshi Buddhist monks have been migrating to these countries for either academic training in Buddhist studies or further migration to other developed countries. There is no doubt that these exchanges are a major contributing factor in influencing the already existing Buddhist cultures in Bangladesh. E.g., U. Panya Jota Mahathera (1955–2020), one of the most influential monks in contemporary Bangladesh and who followed the Burmese Buddhist tradition and have often travelled to the region, have built several Buddhist monuments of Burmese tradition and introduced Burmese Buddhist rituals among his devotees in Bangladesh. This study also examines such recent developments of the religion in the country.
Although there are claims that the Buddha himself visited this part of the region, until at present, there has no major studies on the development of Buddhism in Bangladesh, particularly how the religion is thriving at present amidst various challenges. This study is carried out based on mainly two categories of resources: i) by using the available little academic resources in the subject in question and ii) field works, which include visits to local religious places and discussions with local religious and social leaders in the region, which the author plans to carry out in June–July 2022.
Since Tim Brook’s Praying for Power (1993) we have come to appreciate the ongoing power of Buddhist religious tradition on all social levels, with the late Ming revival of a remarkably strong link between socio-educational elites and Lower Yangzi region Buddhist monasteries as one particularly clear example. Nonetheless, there are also differences or what we might call roads not taken. While elites connected to local monasteries in more ways than one, these monasteries did not organize society in the same way as local temple networks did. While we might not expect this in the first place, epigraphical evidence and colophons to Buddhist sutras for instance demonstrate that in various places in Song-Jin-Yuan China Buddhist traditions were an important social force that far transcended doctrinal boundaries. In this contribution I analyse an inscription from the year 1314 as an example of the role of some Buddhist monasteries in structuring local society, from local officials, local militia to local guilds and traders. Apparently, something did get lost between the late Yuan and late Ming periods, even if the power of Buddhist ritual and devotional practices certainly continued to exert a strong appeal, whether connected to monasteries or new religious groups or otherwise.
Geographic and spatial cognitive mappings do not always concur. Buddhist worldview makes these two kinds of mappings all the more complicated. The Shentong Monastery in Shandong in the Tang period certainly exacerbated the situation. The monastic site is a paradox onto itself. It is supposed to be a reclusive mountainous retreat, yet it ostensibly bears the busy footprints of the Sui and Tang imperial activities. The monastic architectural structures and sculptures broadcast the highest order of cosmopolitanism; yet it was also meshed in local aspirations. At least it spurred local imitations that remain nothing more than local productions. The political agenda and cosmopolitan character of the four-sided architectural-sculptural stupa-tower notwithstanding, it accords well with local communities’ ways of organizing their imaginary world. To the extent that such imaginary mapping was widely shared across the empire, we are once again compelled to readjust our habitual notions of the center vs. periphery, cosmopolitanism and locality.
ATimothy Brook’s seminal study of local gentry in Ming Dynasty and their use of Buddhist temples as gateway to power and status poignantly proves that religion is closely knit with local society. Recent scholarship in history and folklore have revealed the existence of a “pantheon” of local religions in Suzhou, resulting from fascinating interactions among the boat people and farming population in their economic and ritual exchanges, aided by waves of political movements. However, very little has been done to examine the interactions between such popular religious practices with local Buddhist and Daoist worlds. Building on ethnographic fieldwork between 2014-2019, this paper analyzes what I call “Buddhification” and “Daoification” processes that accompany the large-scale urbanization and destruction of small village temples in contemporary Suzhou. First, it uncovers how state-led urbanization and construction of large official Buddhist and Daoist temples in urbanizing areas have created new religious spaces that have replaced the village temples as the center of ritual life in contemporary Suzhou. Second, state-led anti-superstition campaigns have successfully created bottom-up legitimacy-seeking religious practitioners who actively embrace Buddhism and Daoism as the sanctioned religious affiliations. Similar to the Ming Dynasty gentry, the growing educated public often seek spiritual guidance and social status through Buddhist and/or Daoist practices and indoctrination. Lastly, the “Pantheon”, made up of various earth gods and other local deities including recently deceased members of the community, though sidelined and often forced into crowded backrooms, still occupy a space in the newly constructed Daoist and Buddhist temples
and constantly erupts to the surface through channels of spirit mediumship. This paper argues that the influences are mutual by exploring the possibilities of how the local popular religious “pantheon” in turns exerts influence on local Buddhist and Daoist landscapes of Suzhou.
The relationship between Guangyuan 廣元 and Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (c.624-705 CE), the first and only female to rule China in her own right, has long been the focus of academic attention. There are numerous poems, legends, and local documents which although they post-date the late Tang, refer to Guangyuan as the birthplace of Empress Wu. These literary sources appear to be corroborated by the material remains in Guangyuan which are taken to evidence the “presence” of the Empress Wu or her family. One such example is Huangzesi 皇澤寺, which is regarded as Empress Wu’s shrine or family temple and preserves one statue of her innocent portrait (Zhenrong 真容). Research to date on the cult of Empress Wu in Guangyuan focuses on textual analysis and largely been limited to fact checking with little consideration for how the cult in Guangyuan came into being. This research attempts to reconstruct the social space and historical process of the formation and evolution of Empress Wu’s cult in Guangyuan by examining the related statues and inscriptions in two Buddhist grottoes in Guangyuan area—Huangzesi and Qianfoya 千佛崖 to which current research has paid little attention. By tracing the significance of Huangzesi and Qianfoya in the formation of Empress Wu’s cult in Guangyuan this paper aims to highlight the materiality and spatiality in the historical construction of local cult and to encourage further research into the active role of historical and religious sites as local monuments in the shaping of local knowledge and memories.
What is the narrative significance of the long and formulaic bureaucratic document as featured in the xiaoshuo novels of early modern China? What are the documentary formularies governing the bureaucratic communications in the imagined worlds of these Chinese novels? How did creators, publishers, editors, commentators, and readers of these novels imagine the documentary qua political relationship among different regimes, real or imagined, human or superhuman? This paper proposes that these questions, while pointing to the areas where bureaucracy, literature, and religion meet each other, have the potential to reveal a whole ocean of political theories and imaginations, which would be otherwise invisible to us. Put differently, from the margins of documents in the margins of novels recreated on the margins of block-print pages, we hear the voices of the editors and typesetters. They were putting different regimes in order—that of Heaven, of Death, of “China,” conceptualizing their jurisdictional boundaries, and theorizing the sovereign power of the human, subhuman, and superhuman realms.
Once arriving at a locality often as the result of strong competition among aspirants, the Buddhist canon opened a new page in its life. Surprisingly, however, we know little about its reception in the destination, the ultimate purpose of what the canon was created for, and thus can easily raise some important questions. For example, how did a canon function after being distributed? How did the canon establish a meaningful relationship with the local society? What factors affected its reception, how and to what extent? How could the distributed canon be significant, both for Buddhism itself and for the local society involved?
Based on cases primarily collected from the Ming and Qing period, this paper seeks to better understand how the Buddhist canon was received in the local society by answering the abovementioned questions. It examines the interplay of those canons with different groups of people who had different backgrounds and social status, including resident monks, local gentry, and ordinary people, and highlights how diverse their agendas could be. It also challenges an assumption we may have, that is, reading was the only important way to use the canon. With a special attention paid to poorly educated people, it reveals how they managed to establish a certain relationship with a canon by getting themselves involved in canon-related events. Finally, this paper argues that being used was the best way for a canon in a local society to exert influence, and that how well the canon was received depends on how well local residents were mobilized to take advantage of it.