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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.
This paper points out that three examples are given to illustrate that Quanzhen Taoist family system, which has been handed down since the Ming and Qing dynasties, is facing the dilemma of identity Crisis, but it has to be in the form of acceptance to gain the legitimacy of the identity. But if the situation persists for long, it will fundamentally alter Quanzhen Taoist established tradition in the family system, leaving the Taoist form in the Either/Or of man-made paradoxes, thus lost the real significance of Taoist cultural heritage.
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.
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, edifying 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.
Frivolity has been regarded as a problematic trend in Buddhism since the Song. This article considers the issue of frivolity in the interplay between Buddhism and Chinese local society during the Song by situating it in two special contexts. One is the burgeoning culture of courtesanship and the other is the rising popularity of anecdotal writing. It focuses on the amorous poems (yanshi 艷詩 and yanci 艷詞) that are said to be produced in scenarios pertaining to Buddhist monks’ direct or implicit involvement in the culture of courtesanship. The anecdotal materials reveal subtle but important differences between stories circulated among elites and tales preserved in vernacular storytellers’ sourcebooks. Whereas literati anecdotes reveal an ambivalent attitude to the moral messages conveyed in stories of monks-courtesan interactions, vernacular storytellers tend to be more vigilant and vocal about monks’ association with courtesans.
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.
The purpose of the study is to locate Tangut Buddhist texts within a more general framework of Sinitic Buddhism in Northern China during 11-13th centuries. This means that we envisage Tangut Buddhist texts, both translations and locally composed works as the sources not only for the study of Tangut Buddhism but also for the better understanding of the Sinitic Buddhism in the adjacent areas. For the Platform Sutra we have established two independent traditions, and tried to compare these with the Dunhuang version by Fahai, and also with the surviving fragments of the Tangut Chan biographical literature. Philological conventions which discovered thereby indicate on the multiplicity of sources for the Tangut Chan, reflexive of the multifaceted situation in circulation of these texts in Northern China during 11-13th centuries.
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.
1897 was a year that largely goes under our radar screen. In hindsight, it turned out to be a year of uncanny coincidence. Stars were aligned. In that year, Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) published “On Electricity”; China had its first native-owned power station in Shanghai; and Tan Sitong (1865-1898), a starry-eyed young reformist, wrote extensively on electricity, ether, and global psychic connectivity. Tan was executed at the age of 33 by the Qing government the next year as the Hundred Days’ Reform he had participated in failed. However, the electricity-ether-globalism meme lived on. It resurfaced a century later, in the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, on the site of the power station that was founded in 1897. Coincidentally–or perhaps not–Tesla’s avatar also showed up in the form of the Tesla Tower on the Biennale curator’s map. Stars were once again re-aligned. In-between 1897 and 2012 is thus an untold story of the exploration of the mental photography, aerial medium, and formation of the global brain, borne by a charged medium, an aggregate of electricity, ether, and global consciousness, that repeatedly electrified art, and vice versa.
When collating the works of eminent monks such as Zibai Zhenke in the late Ming Dynasty, we found that the objects of Dharma quotations, letters, words and other styles, seem to be Dharma names, but they are not very well-known. After dealing with these objects, it is found that the masters of these names may be secular disciples around eminent monks, and some of them were well-known lay celebrities at that time; This unique Dharma name, which is not common in other literature, is only found in the external discourse system and has not been paid attention to by the academic circles. Based on the collected works of Zibai Zhenke, an eminent monk in the late Ming Dynasty with close interaction between monks and customs, supplemented by relevant documents in the same period, this paper briefly examines the actual meaning of many Dharma names in the collection; In addition to Feng Mengzhen’s “Zhen Shi” and Tang Xianzu’s “Cun Xu” and “Guang Xu”, there are still many masters of Dharma names, which need to be revealed. Based on this, this paper briefly discusses the atmosphere of Dharma names in the resident circle and the identity and belief of Buddhist monks and scholar bureaucrats in the late Ming Dynasty.
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.
In the early 7th century, a group of relatively uniform Buddhist statues with niches of similar shapes and styles were excavated in cliff faces in Guangyuan, Mianyang and Bazhong in the mountains to the north of the Sichuan Basin. This is the beginning of the large-scale construction of Buddhist grottoes in Sichuan and Chongqing. It is of great significance for discussing the regional transmission of Buddhist grottoes from the north to the south and the formation of southwestern grotto traditions. Through the investigation of the form of the niches, the content of the statues and the collective associations, it is herein argued that the construction system of Buddhist sites is a hybrid of Buddhist practice and artistic traditions that were separated from the south and the north during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Its emergence shows the continuous renewal of the regional tradition of Buddhist statues since the Southern Dynasties in Sichuan and reflects the social and religious changes brought by a large number of officials and monks from the north entering Sichuan at the end of the Sui Dynasty and the beginning of the Tang Dynasty. It also provides excellent material for discussing the social integration of the early Tang Dynasty in northern Sichuan and the complex tension between Buddhism and Daoism.
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.
Beijing has long been the capital of China, and the composition of its local society is often more directly and obviously influenced by official policies. This paper discusses the relationship among Buddhism, Taoism and the local society in Beijing during the late Qing Dynasty and the Republican Period, by examining two systems and their practices, the “temple household” (miaohu, 廟戶) and the “shop guarantors” (pubao, 鋪保), which were highly institutionalized by the government. Initially there were a few hereditary temple households in Beijing, which were unique in official temples. However, during the late Qing Dynasty, the differences between this kind of privileged temple households and the ordinary civil households were gradually reduced. Especially during the Republican Period, the temple households could choose their own jobs, which led the sharp decline of the Temple Household System. While the Shop Guarantee System became popular during the Republican Period, as a result of its excellent integration with the modern commercial guarantee system. The totally different trends of the Temple Household System and the Shop Guarantee System illustrated the smaller gap among Buddhist, Taoist temples and general “civil temple” (minmiao, 民廟), also the closer relationship among Buddhist, Taoist temples and local society. In addition, the religious communities in Beijing did not rely exclusively on geopolitical or neighborhood basis, but more on the basis of professions and social status.