Return to main conference page.
Chinese Buddhism is represented in Italy by three influential institutions and a number of smaller Buddhist centers. These centers are primarily located in areas that have been heavily impacted by Chinese immigration, such as Prato and Florence in Tuscany, Rome, Naples, and Monza and Milan in Lombardy. The first Chinese Buddhist temple established in Italy was the Huayisi 華義寺 in Rome in 2005. Unlike other temples that host monastics from Mainland China, the Huayisi has a strong affiliation with the Chong Tai Chan 中台禪寺, a well-known Taiwanese monastery. This notwithstanding, Huayisi’s devotees and followers in Italy are primarily from Mainland China, and it also maintains connections with the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) and with monastic institutions in the PRC, particularly on Putuoshan. Among the Chinese Buddhist temples in Italy, only the Huayisi is a member of the Union of Italian Buddhists (UBI), giving it official religious site status and making it a natural interlocutor with other UBI-affiliated Buddhist institutions. The objective of the research (which is still in its preliminary stages) is to examine the glocalizing strategies of Huayisi by exploring its diverse networks and interlocutors, including its connections with the Taiwanese headquarters, the BAC, and monasteries in the PRC, as well as its relationships with other Chinese Buddhist institutions in Italy and other UBI members. Additionally, the study will explore the profiles of the lay Buddhists and worshippers participating in the temple’s activities.
The Chinese character or logograph mo “魔” represents a new term and concept formed out of Chinese Buddhist translation texts. Regarding its origin, Tang dynasty 慧琳 Huilin in his Yiqie jing yinyi 一切经音义 [Glossary of the Sounds and Meanings of the Complete Tripitaka] records that the term “ mo 魔” emerged by changing the form of logograph “mo 摩” during the process of Buddhist translation. In Zhiguan fuxing zhuan hongjue 止觀輔行傳弘決 [Commentary on Zhiyiʼs Mohe zhiguan], Zhan Ran 湛然 first proposes that “mo魔” derived from the stone 石 radical “mo磨” used in older translation texts. Furthermore, Zhan Ran notes that during the time of Liang Wudi 梁武帝 (c. 464-549), the Emperor felt the meaning of the character “should be” (宜从) written as “魔.” Thus, the conflict between these two historical records has led to a discrepancy amongst later Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources on this character’s origins. In the Ming dynasty, the Chinese character dictionary Zhengzitong 正字通 [Comprehensive Correct Characters] interpreted Zhanran’s original explanation of Liang Wudi’s role in promoting the “魔” form of the character as meaning Liang Wudi ‘changed [its form]’ (gaicong 改从). This record led to the widespread misconception that Liang Wudi invented this character. Based on the examination of Dunhuang Buddhist manuscripts, buddhist literature, and early Daoist sources, this study argues that the logograph “魔” emerged well before Liang Wudi, but was used interchangeably with other written forms including, “摩” and “磨.” During Liang Wudi’s reign, the written use of “魔” in translated texts became increasingly standardized. Following the block-printing of Buddhist texts, which took place afterward, the mo logograph’s variant written forms were eventually unified as “魔”.
The Standards for Handling the Light and Heavy Properties, written by Daoxuan in the eleventh year of the Zhenguan era (637), was originally an auxiliary work to his Vinaya treatise based on the Four Part Vinaya. It discusses the proper handling of various items belonging to deceased monks. The detailed list of items provided valuable information for studying the daily life within the medieval Buddhist monasteries or even that of the cultural elites in general. Before Daoxuan passed away, he made significant revision to the text. The Dunhuang manuscripts preserve the original form before these modifications. The descriptions of manuscript books, musical performances, and calligraphy vividly depict the knowledge and artistic world of medieval monastic life. The revised evaluation of the light and heavy properties should be understood in the context of frequent donations of monastic robes by nobles and royal authories.
Mahāyāna and Theravāda are Buddhism’s two major traditions, and share the same fundamental teachings. However, there are long-term disputes between the two, touching on doctrine, religious practices, and the ultimate goal, among other matters. Theravāda has often been termed the “vehicle of the hearers” by Mahāyāna Buddhists, to reflect the role of the Buddha’s early followers who sought to become Arhats (those who have achieved nirvana) through hearing and practising his teachings. In the eyes of Mahāyāna practitioners, disciples from the vehicle of the hearers are narrowly focused on individual salvation, as opposed to the path of the bodhisattva, which aims at all beings’ liberation. On the other hand, Theravāda Buddhists typically hold strong views of their religious identity, taking their own traditions to be “Orthodox Buddhism” and suspecting that various aspects of the Mahāyāna tradition lack authenticity.
In the past few decades, however, globalization has brought about transnational flows of people and cultures via immigration and commerce. Inevitably, the different Buddhist traditions have passed beyond their historical geographic boundaries; and this has resulted in more cultural exchange events and religious activities that have potentially involved cross-traditional monastic dialogue and collaboration between Mahāyāna and Theravāda practitioners, both in Buddhist propagation and in social contribution.
While the issue of Mahāyāna-Theravāda border-crossing is a topic of strong interest in Buddhist Studies, only a limited amount of ethnographic work on Chinese Buddhism in regions of the world beyond the traditional East Asian Mahāyāna territories has been conducted. Against this backdrop, the paper thus explores the position of Chinese Mahāyāna monastics in sociocultural contexts of Myanmar where the Theravāda lineage has been historically dominant. This paper significantly provides an overview of how local Theravada ethos inevitably affects Chinese Mahayana Buddhists’ experiences of religious minority in the host country. This presentation of this paper is divided into two parts. First, it paints a general picture of Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhism as it developed in Burma in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the second and main part, based on my fieldwork findings, it presents contemporary Chinese monastics’ religious and minority experiences of living in the sociocultural context of a Theravadin, Burman-majority nation. To sum up, the paper is in an attempt to give a holistic and realistic picture of contemporary Chinese monastics’ views and experiences in Theravāda-majority Myanmar, particularly dealing with their contested status and problematizing identity in transnational contexts in Myanmar
There may be many factors contributed to the Buddhist integration in Chinese culture such as historical, philosophical, social, religious, political, trade and other causes in the process of two thousand years of interaction, but I will concentrate on the philosophical ideas and thought. The most important reason for such a large scale integration is the liberal attitude of mind in both Confucianism and Buddhism because for a foreign culture or thought, or religion to integrate in another culture, both must be liberal and receptive. The open minded attitude of mind in Confucianism can be seen from the following saying found in the Confucius Analects or Lunyu, “The gentleman harmonizes (he和), and does not merely agree (tong同). The petty person agrees, but he does not harmonize.” The Buddhist liberal attitude of mind is demonstrated in the saying “Whatsoever is well spoken, all that is the word of the Buddha.” This means that Buddhism accepts whatever is good whether they are from Buddhist or non-Buddhist sources. This thought has influenced Buddhists tremendously and led to important consequences in the transmission of Buddhism to other cultures. Thus, Buddhism and Confucianism learned from each other and Buddhism finally integrated itself into and become part of the Chinese culture.
This paper aims at examining the development of an event ‘Thousand people Zen meditation’ with transnational Buddhist meditation practices for promoting social harmony in contemporary Hong Kong, a post-colonial society with civil disobedience.In view of the resulting social tension and unrest after the ‘Umbrella Movement’ in 2014, Ven. Chang Lin, a Hong Kong Chinese monk trained in Taiwan, initiated an event of ‘Thousand people Zen Meditation’ in 2015, with the support of a Buddhist magazine. With the aim of promoting social harmony with Buddhist meditation practices, the event was collaborated with a few transnational Buddhist organizations, including Kwan Um School of Zen, Plum Village, and Tegar Asia. In other words, the meditation event was led by monastics and lay practitioners from traditions of Han Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tibetan. It has become a unique cross-sectional Buddhist event, organized once a year since 2015 in Hong Kong. With Cantonese as the teaching language, the targeted audience are local Hong Kong Chinese without meditation experiences and knowledge about Buddhism. In this ethnographic study, I will examine how the transnational meditation movement has raised the interest of contemplation for the public in the current frantic social situation.
As Buddhism spread beyond its region of origin, it quickly developed in breadth and scope such that two historical factors were pivotal: most Buddhists were householders and it was monastic leaders attuned to its missionary identity that formatively shaped the tradition. Rulers across Asia were drawn to support Buddhism because of its positive contributions to political life; its emphasis on individual morality promoted social stability, its rituals designed to secure healing and prosperity were welcomed by officials in power; and respected monastics bestowed legitimization on rulers.
Buddhism found acceptance in many kinds of societies across Asia, from nomadic communities to urbanized polities, from the tropics to the vast grasslands of northern Asia, from the Arabian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. One reason for this religion’s successful trans-Asian pilgrimage has been not only an inspiring vision of the cosmos, spiritual experience and salvation, but also its promise of householders securing worldly prosperity, and promising them a better human or even a heavenly rebirth. From its inception, Buddhism achieved broad support due to its flexibility, both doctrinal and institutional. This distinctive characteristic is based in part on the essential Buddhist belief that both individuals and societies are different; since individuals possess different karmic backgrounds, different levels of intelligence, moral character, and spiritual praxis are accepted as normative. Like all world religions, Buddhism is multivocalic so that Its leaders thereby had flexibility in adapting the tradition to local circumstances.
This paper outlines a composite Buddhist view of missionary expansion and intercultural adaptation, seeking to characterize a fully-imagined model of how its doctrines, institutional practices, and ritual activities served in an interlocking manner to effect the Buddhist conquests of East Asia (adapting the phrase of historian Erik Zurcher). Of particular importance, and using Mahāyāna terminology, is to understand how its leaders adopted “skillful means” in achieving the “spiritual conquest” of indigenous traditions across this region: its ritualists subduing local deities, modifying ritual practices, and Buddhist intellectuals harmonizing moral teachings under its dominion.
Part II of this paper brings this perspective into the present day. The past 500 years have brought a multilayered and interlinked series of crises to Buddhist Asia: the decline and fall of kingship throughout the Buddhist world (in all countries but Thailand and Bhutan), the forceful imposition of colonial rule by foreigners, the disruptive imperial quest for wealth, and confrontation with world religions that aggressively sought conversion of colonized populations. Because most of the discourses and prescriptions for Buddhist political action are based upon texts and experiences assuming the presence and necessary intervention of a king, Buddhist societies have faced the unprecedented challenges of colonialism and later independence lacking the guidance of primary resources from their canonical texts and ancient traditions. Across Asia, there has been an urgently felt need to redefine the political foundations of Buddhism in a king-less world. The rise of householder organizations across Asia attempting “to do the work of kings” (in H.L. Seneviratne’s apt characterization) and the general decline of monastic influence have dramatically changed the classical solutions to socio-political challenges. The initial results of these efforts have been largely catastrophic, as witnessed by the rise of intolerant Buddhist nationalism-s, ethnic fratricide, and civil war. These have exposed the failure of modern adherents to achieve the clear canonical ideal of tolerant and compassionate rule.
Modern Buddhist reformers now face many questions from citizens and rulers concerning the relevance and applicability of the traditional Buddhist norms of political rule. The paper concludes by posing the sorts of question commonly posed today in Buddhist societies: How can a Buddhist society following its classical political ideals hope to survive in the modern world where nations’ “civil religions” require universal loyalty, and where showing compassion for non-Buddhist or minorities is often regarded as naive or showing political weakness?
The Two Truths (Skt. satyadvaya, Ch. erdi 二諦) are a crucial hermeneutic and philosophical device in the exegesis of Madhyamaka texts in both South and East Asia. The assimilation of this concept in China was driven in large part by Six Dynasties hermeneutics, i.e., xuanxue 玄學, and is thus subsumed by the well-established relationship between the linguistic and ontological categories of “existence” (Ch. you 有) and “nonexistence” (Ch. wu 無) in a way that is utterly foreign to the Indian tradition. This paper seeks to examine the legacy of this conflation and its consequences in the writings of the Sui Dynasty exegetes Jizang 吉藏 (549-623) and Zhiyi 智顗 (538-597), the prior of which is understood as a representative of Madhyamaka on Chinese soil, while the latter is lauded as a turning point in the indigenous development of Chinese Buddhist thought. I aim to show, however, that in their handling of the Two Truths, it is in fact Zhiyi’s innovative understanding of the Three Truths that comes to most closely resonate with the Madhyamaka of Nāgārjuna, and Jizang’s Fourfold Two Truths that creatively reiterates the basic paradigms of Chinese Philosophy.
The Los Angeles metropolitan area constitutes one of the world’s most important “global cities” (Saskia Sassen). At its heart – just east of the City of Los Angeles – lies the San Gabriel Valley, a suburban cluster of cities and unincorporated communities. The San Gabriel Valley hosts the biggest Chinese American community in the US. This new suburban pattern of settlement, or “ethnoburb” (Wei Li), has replaced earlier spaces of overseas Chinese settlement in inner cities, the so-called Chinatowns.
Mostly ignored by studies on Buddhism in the US, the San Gabriel Valley ethnoburb is home to a huge variety of temples, centers, and other Buddhist sites, a majority of whom have their roots in the different sinophone societies in Asia. Based on a digital mapping project conducted in the fall of 2022 and the spring of 2023, this paper assesses the number, diversity, and patterns of dispersion of Buddhist spaces in the San Gabriel Valley. It contextualizes the data by an exploration of how the SGV forms a layered and complex Buddhist social space that links Buddhism in the US with global China as a transnational spatial order.
When we think of the transmission of a religious tradition like Buddhism to a new place, say the arrival in Buddhism in a country like China or Cambodia, we are aware that more is going on than a duplication of the original– a rich historical and cultural phenomena like Buddhism naturally and organically attuned itself to the cultural, institutional, religious, artistic, and social realities of the country to which it arrived. This is no less true in the literary sphere, where stories were re-told to fit local tastes, interests, and concerns. Nonetheless, when scholars discuss the “transmission” of the Buddhist textual tradition – here speaking of what has come to be considered as the early Buddhist canon, the Tipiṭaka, and specifically the early Buddhist discourses (sutta, sūtra) – the assumptions are, first, that there was a clearly defined textual corpus to be transmitted; second, that the main job of the people in charge of the transmission of the texts, here the so-called ‘reciters’ (bhāṇaka), were interested mainly in keeping the texts as close as possible to their original form; and finally, that the reception of the texts, their so-called ‘transmission’, was mostly concerned with reproducing, studying and preserving this same original.
None of these assumptions can be confirmed; they tell one side of the story at best: the flexibility of Buddha-vacana is a well-known fact, and there are serious problems with each of these three points. In this paper, after shortly revisiting arguments I have made regarding this picture that have emphasized the creative nature of the texts from the start, their flexible character, and the authorial innovation of the bhāṇakas within traditional modes, I will focus on the concept of transmission to show what was being transmitted was by general rule a particular, inspired interpretation of the tradition. It is not necessarily that the spirit was preferred over the letter – there is no one spirit, and authors surely cared about the letter. But their re-working of the letter, be it in a performative or literary mode, was such that text was more a trajectory to frame a new presentation, than an opportunity to repeat what was ready made. Or better, it was both. I will demonstrate these ideas through textual examples, mainly drawing on my readings in the Pāli Nikāyas.
The Sui (581-618 CE) was a relatively short-lived dynasty that successfully reunified China in 589 after four centuries of political fragmentation. The unifier, Emperor Wen 隋文帝 (r. 581-604), sought multiple ways to reinforce the imperial power. One of his earliest initiatives was the construction of a new capital city, Daxingcheng. This magnificent capital, unprecedented in its scale, remained (under the later name Chang’an) the principal seat of government until the start of the tenth century. Notably, from its inception, it was designed to serve as the empire’s spiritual and not just political center. The emperor actively encouraged construction of Buddhist monasteries in the city; by the end of his reign more than one hundred of these have altered Daxingcheng’s cityscape.
One of the most consequential policies of Emperor Wen was the relocation of eminent Buddhist monks to Daxingcheng. Thus, upon his arrival in Daxingcheng, Emperor Wen granted lands in the esteemed Guang’en Ward 廣恩坊 to the renowned monk Tanyan 曇延 (516-588). In 587, the emperor summoned six influential monks from the former Northern Qi territories, each followed by a few hundred disciples, to Daxingcheng. Then, in 589, immediately upon the conquest of Sui’s southern rival, Chen 陳 (557-589), Emperor Wen summoned the most distinguished Southern clergy to Daxingcheng. These steps were to make Daxingcheng the unrivalled Buddhist center. In my paper I shall analyze these policies, their underlying rationale, and their impact.
The Aparimitāyur(jñāna)sūtra is a tantric sūtra that describes the dhāraṇī of Aparimitāyurjñānasuviniścitatejorāja Buddha 無量智決定王如來 in the world of Aparimitāguṇasañcayo 無量功德聚 and its virtues and merits. A large number of Sanskrit manuscripts of this sūtra have survived and are preserved in Nepal, Cambridge University Library, Asiatic Society of Bengal, and Tokyo University Library. The newly discovered Sanskrit palm-leaf manuscript written in Proto-Bengali dates earlier than the Nepalese paper manuscripts and differs considerably in content from existing Sanskrit redacted text. This study provides a diplomatic edition of the newly discovered Sanskrit manuscript and compares it with existing Sanskrit-Chinese-Tibetan editions to show its unique philological features.
Musical voice is taken as an important way of Buddhist practice,which is mainly expressed in Saccavacanasandverses of vows.Both were highly valued since Sectarian Buddhist period by various schools including Sarvāstivāda, Dharmaguptaka, Tāmraśāṭīya, Mahīśāsaka, etc. Saccavacans served as protective incantations and also played a role in mission, self-protection and manifestation of mercy, as well as in showing compassion and real supernatural Powers in Buddhist dharma. Different schools treated it with different attitudes and accepted it to varied degrees.In Buddhist canons Saccavacanashavebeen presented in literary forms like dakṣiṇā, jātaka and prose, and thereupon formed narrative forms like Saccavacana-dakṣiṇā, Saccavacana-jātaka and Saccavacana-prose, which helped in publicizing guṇas of Bodhisattvakṣānti, Vīrya and stuff. Saccavacanas and verses of vows were later gradually substituted by Abhijñās and Tantric Mantras since the emergence of Mahāyana Buddhism.
The Mahāvihāra (The Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura was the main Theravāda Buddhist educational establishment of ancient Sri Lanka. It had also served as the international centre of Theravāda Buddhism for over fifteen centuries during the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa kingdoms of Sri Lanka’s political history. While following its unique hermeneutical tradition, it mainly interpreted the Buddha’s teachings of the Pāli Tipiṭaka, relating them to the changing social and religious contexts of the Indian subcontinent, producing an enormous number of scriptural texts of its own in varying literary forms such as chronicles, commentaries, sub-commentaries, and manuals. As a result, in this ancient world, the Mahāvihāra acclaimed an international reputation, attracting foreign students and scholars, particularly from the Asian lands of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Even though there are numerous research works on the subject of the Mahāvihāra, particularly on its sectarianism, monastic reformations, relationship with other countries, its spread in South India, and the disputes between Sinhala and South Indian bhikkhūs (Paranavitana 1944, Gunawardana 1968, Kieffer-Pülz 2016-2017), yet there is much academic vacuum left to be filled in with new research. One such unexplored area is the Mahāvihāra’s international academic network. In this connection, the Vimativinodanīṭīkā (The Sub-commentary—The Dispeller of Doubts) stands out as a crucial source to establish the Mahāvihāra’s academic network with South India and Burma (Myanmar) during the Polonnaruwa period. The Vimativinodanīṭīkā is the third sub-commentary on the Samantapāsādikā, the Vinaya Commentary, composed during the Polonnaruwa period. Having two other sub-commentaries on the same commentary prior to its compilation also confirms the cruciality of this third sub-commentary for further exploration. The present study is based on this third sub-commentary, and it aims to explore some aspects of the international academic network that the Mahāvihāra had with South India and Burma during the Polonnaruwa era. It discusses how the Mahāvihāra’s scholastic activities expanded to the other lands and how, in that process, its texts served as crucial portable objects in building international relations.
The kalaviṅka (C. jialingpinjia 迦陵頻伽) is a bird native to the snowy mountains of the Himalayas. Despite the mythical bird’s frequent appearances in Buddhist sūtras, the scriptures do not describe its physical appearance. However, from the mid-7th century onward, the kalaviṅka started to appear as a human-headed bird in Chinese art, as seen in cave-temple murals, on śarira (sheli 舍利) reliquaries, and in tomb decorations. In particular, the kalaviṅka became an iconographic staple in the Amitâbha Pure Land “Transformation Tableaux” (bianxiang 變相) that visually translates and imagines the paradisiacal landscape of Sukhāvatī. This paper first traces the scriptural and iconographic sources of the kalaviṅka to study the changing images and roles of the Buddhist bird as it traveled across Asia. I examine the kalaviṅka motif’s connections to both its Indian and Central Asian Buddhist precedents—the hybrid heavenly musician kiṃnara 緊那羅—and to the indigenous Chinese “Man-Bird” (renniao 人鳥). More importantly, I study the soteriological role of the kalaviṅka during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) through these multi-directional iconographic connections. I suggest that by assuming the form of a human-headed bird, the kalaviṅka took on the hybrid bird’s symbolic associations with death, regeneration, and afterlife journey in Chinese cultural and religious imagination. In this way, the Buddhist bird was transformed into an important auditory and visual cue in guiding the devotees to be reborn in the Western paradise at the liminal moment of death. Hence, the kalaviṅka serves as an exemplary case study of the “Glocalization” of Buddhism, as the Buddhist bird of Indian and Central Asian origins took on new visual forms and soteriological meanings in the Chinese artistic and religious landscape.
Four sorts of dreams (namely dhātukkhobhato, anubhūtapubbato, devatopasaṃhārato, pubbanimittato) are recorded in the Samantapāsādikā, a Pāli Vinaya commentary, whose author is ascribed to Buddhaghosa. In the Shanjianlü piposha, a parallel Chinese version of the Samantapāsādikā, the translation of these four sorts of dreams does not closely corresponds to the Pāli sources. Furthermore, the interpretation of these dreams in the Shanjianlü piposha was carried on by later Vinaya school masters during Tang and Song dynasties, such as Daoshi, Dajue and Yuanzhao. They all re-examined this interpretation of dreams based on Mahāyānic Buddhist scriptures, which fully reveals the transformation and variation of a Theravādin concept in the context of Chinese Buddhism.