Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 March 2023) | Viewed by 28812

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
Interests: East Asian Buddhism
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Interests: Chinese Buddhism; Buddhist philosophy; medieval China; Chinese philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite you to submit original research articles to our special issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks. For long monastic communities in the history of Chinese Buddhism had been labelled as “elitist” or a distinct social group, but in fact, the identities and social life of Buddhist monks in Chinese historical records are much more complex and diverse. Accordingly, Buddhist monks’ relations and interactions with the multi-layered Chinese cultural life and other social communities in different periods require more nuanced academic investigation. From a perspective of “the social life of the monk masses in China”, we need to reevaluate the social landscape and dynamics of Chinese monastic communities and explore more possibilities in understanding Chinese Buddhist “monasticism”. We need to rethink the seemingly over-studied questions such as “Is Buddhism systematically sinicised as a social institution?”, “how does Chinese Buddhism spread socially?”, “how to understand the religiosity in Chinese monks’ daily life experience?” with more case analyses and discussions in depth. Here, “Chinese monk masses” and “social life history” will be our main focuses. We wish to use new methods, texts and archeological evidence to challenge extant dichotomies in interpreting the social life of the monk masses in China, such as the doctrinal vs. the popular, localization vs. globalization, or secularisation vs. consecration.

In this context, this special issue aims to recruit exciting original papers about all possible historical periods, geographic regions and subjects salient to our focus. We call for research that problematise existing opinions and impressions on Chinese Buddhist monastic communities and look at the monk masses as innately multivariant and socially mobile. Topics about Chinese monks’ religious life, institutional life, political life, culture life, material life, ritualistic life, monastic economics, monastic spaces and social life, etc. are all welcome. We particularly encourage research with an interdisciplinary spirit and liaising existing material with new theoretical developments in other academic fields to establish new understandings, including sociology, anthropology, religious studies, philosophy and art history.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Prof. Dr. Jinhua Chen
Prof. Dr. Kai Sheng
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (16 papers)

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Research

33 pages, 8754 KiB  
Article
A Forgotten Eminent Buddhist Monk and His Social Network for Constructing Buddhist Statues in Qionglai 邛崍: A Study Based on the Statue Construction Account in 798
by Mingli Sun
Religions 2024, 15(4), 412; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040412 - 27 Mar 2024
Viewed by 821
Abstract
By transcribing, punctuating, and analyzing the Statue Construction Account undertaken in 798, this article attempts a refreshed study of the construction background of the Buddhist statues and niches at Huazhi Temple 花置寺 in Qionglai. The aim of this article is twofold. Firstly, it [...] Read more.
By transcribing, punctuating, and analyzing the Statue Construction Account undertaken in 798, this article attempts a refreshed study of the construction background of the Buddhist statues and niches at Huazhi Temple 花置寺 in Qionglai. The aim of this article is twofold. Firstly, it brings to light an eminent monk named Sengcai, who has been forgotten in both secular and monastic histories. Secondly, it tries to clarify the social network formed by various figures recorded in the Statue Construction Account by tracing their roles and relationships in the course of constructing the Buddhist niches. The analysis of this article expounds that in the process of the statue construction project, Sengcai made full use of his social network to support this project and to seek protection for Huazhi Temple. The construction activities of the Buddhist niches at Huazhi Temple not only brought people of different identities together through politics, Buddhism, economics or kinship, but also connected Qiongzhou (in Sichuan) and the capital of Chang’an to the formation of a multi-identity and cross-regional network of power in which emperor, officials, monks, military generals, craftsmen, literati, and so on, participated and interacted with each other. The whole social network can be divided into two sub-networks in Chang’an and Qiongzhou, with Sengcai as the central figure connecting these two sub-networks. Although the Buddhist niches of Huazhi Temple were carved in Qiongzhou, both the decisive preparatory work and the composition of the Statue Construction Account took place in Chang’an. Hence, the power of the Chang’an sub-network was greater than that of the one based in Qiongzhou. This means that the Buddhist niches at Huazhi Temple from Sengcai’s project were not merely a local project, but one that was strongly connected with the capital Chang’an in 798. Lastly, the Statue Construction Account in 798 at Huazhi Temple indicated mutual aid and support between Sichuan Buddhism and Chang’an Buddhism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
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52 pages, 15287 KiB  
Article
The Social Backgrounds, Dharma Lineages, and Achievements of Women Chan Masters, 1572–1722
by Yuh-Neu Chen
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1241; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101241 - 27 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1093
Abstract
This article continues the investigation of my previous paper ‘Wan Ming Qing chu dongnan yanhai gangkou Fosi de biqiuni shenying’ 晚明清初東南沿海港口佛寺的比丘尼身影 (‘The Historic Image of the Bhikkhuni Who Lived at Buddhist Monasteries of Seaport Cities of Southeast China during the Late Ming and [...] Read more.
This article continues the investigation of my previous paper ‘Wan Ming Qing chu dongnan yanhai gangkou Fosi de biqiuni shenying’ 晚明清初東南沿海港口佛寺的比丘尼身影 (‘The Historic Image of the Bhikkhuni Who Lived at Buddhist Monasteries of Seaport Cities of Southeast China during the Late Ming and Early Qing Period’). While discussing the space of port city Buddhist monasteries and their urban environment, and how they aided or hindered the bhikkhuni monastic community, or individual bhikkhuni in their practice, life, and personal achievements, I also realized that a bhikkhuni’s family background and her connections with local gentry and eminent persons indeed contributed to the rise of her prestige. The publication and distribution of the recorded sayings of several women Chan monastics residing in the Buddhist monasteries of port cities during the late Ming and early Qing periods can be regarded as a commendable breakthrough in the Buddhist history of this period. To further clarify the resource structure that helped support these Chan bhikkhuni, including the multifaceted interplay between their blood ties, dharma connections, and regional connections, I aim here to particularly examine the backgrounds, dharma lineages, activity regions, and ultimate achievements of these women Chan monastics. I will consider how it is that these Chan bhikkhuni were able to use such resources to achieve the distinction of having their deeds recorded, while so many more of their fellow bhikkhuni have been forgotten. While in real life, there were a rather large number of bhikkhuni, only a few have been able to have their names passed down to posterity. Women have always faced greater challenges than men in having their voices known and receiving social recognition, and even for men, this has never been easy without a relevant support system—one’s own personal cultivation, the prestige of one’s family, the power of one’s dharma lineage, the strength of one’s personal connection, the disparity in the resources that one has access to in their urban or rural society, etc.; all these various factors affect one’s achievements and performance. Especially in Chan Buddhist texts, where women are greatly underrepresented, I aim to explore in this paper how a women Chan monastic could be included in the Chan historical record, have her recorded sayings published, and have a place in Buddhism or the dharma lineages of Chan. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
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18 pages, 902 KiB  
Article
From “Sangha Forest” (叢林 Conglin) to “Buddhist Academy”: The Influence of Western Knowledge Paradigm on the Chinese Sangha Education in Modern Times
by Yifeng Liu
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1068; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081068 - 19 Aug 2023
Viewed by 959
Abstract
Drawing on Foucault’s theoretical framework of “space and power”, this paper examines the discursive construction of “knowledge” in the context of Chinese Buddhist education. It traces the historical transformation of Chinese Buddhist education from the traditional “Sangha Forest”(the monastic community; 叢林 Conglin) style [...] Read more.
Drawing on Foucault’s theoretical framework of “space and power”, this paper examines the discursive construction of “knowledge” in the context of Chinese Buddhist education. It traces the historical transformation of Chinese Buddhist education from the traditional “Sangha Forest”(the monastic community; 叢林 Conglin) style education to the Buddhist Academy, and analyzes how modern Buddhism reshaped its social image and function from a faith-based to a knowledge-based culture. Furthermore, this paper explores the reasons why modern Buddhism requires “knowledge” as a bridge between its worldly and transcendental dimensions, and the roles of elite laymen and monasteries as “Buddhist Institutes” in the new discursive practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
26 pages, 2359 KiB  
Article
Seeing the Light Again: A Study of Buddhist Ophthalmology in the Tang Dynasty
by Wei Li
Religions 2023, 14(7), 880; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070880 - 07 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1873
Abstract
Buddhist culture places a high priority on the eyes. The restoration of light through the treatment of eye conditions represents the dispelling of the illusion of the transmigratory worlds and the attainment of enlightenment. The treatment of eye disorders was a difficult medical [...] Read more.
Buddhist culture places a high priority on the eyes. The restoration of light through the treatment of eye conditions represents the dispelling of the illusion of the transmigratory worlds and the attainment of enlightenment. The treatment of eye disorders was a difficult medical issue that involved numerous prescriptions, procedures, and mantras in the Tang Dynasty medicine. It was not simply a metaphor for wisdom. The narrative of Bai Juyi’s 白居易 (772–846) fighting against eye diseases highlights the value of the golden scalpel technique (jinbi shu 金篦術) and medical texts attributed to Ngârjuna Bodhisattva (Longshu 龍樹), which profoundly affected Chinese medicine on treating the eyes throughout the Tang Dynasty. Furthermore, the tale of Li Shangyin’s 李商隱 (813–858) eyes being treated by Zhixuan 知玄 can only be fully explored within the context of the Esoteric Buddhism, where mandalas, prescriptions, rituals, and dhāraṇīs are frequently used in conjunction with eye care. The case of Qin Minghe 秦鳴鶴, however, suggests that ophthalmology practiced by Buddhists may become more popular as a result of religious competition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
28 pages, 1461 KiB  
Article
Struggling to Restore a Lost Identity: Hanshan Deqing’s 憨山德清 (1546–1623) Reforms at Nanhua Temple 南華寺, 1600–1610
by Dewei Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(4), 498; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040498 - 04 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1765
Abstract
During the ten years from Wanli 28 to 38 (1600–1610), Hanshan Deqing, then an exiled leading Buddhist master, managed to launch large-scale reforms in Nanhua temple in an attempt to reinvigorate the ancestral temple of Chan Buddhism. Strategically significant though it was, this [...] Read more.
During the ten years from Wanli 28 to 38 (1600–1610), Hanshan Deqing, then an exiled leading Buddhist master, managed to launch large-scale reforms in Nanhua temple in an attempt to reinvigorate the ancestral temple of Chan Buddhism. Strategically significant though it was, this effort proved eventful and finally came to a tragic end, including the suicide of the temple’s incumbent abbot. How deeply the process of the reforms and their significance can be understood hinges upon the extent to which two puzzles can be tackled. First, how could it have been possible for Deqing, as an exile, to initiate the reforms in such a significant temple in the first place? And how and why did Deqing’s efforts evolve into such a life-and-death confrontation? Keeping these questions in mind, this article reveals how Deqing was able to mobilize resources for initial success by adjusting his strategies according to the situation; how his efforts were conditioned both by domestic situations on the local, regional, and national levels, respectively, and by international elements that characterized the dawn of the global age; and how the reform efforts failed halfway amid the escalating tensions between the new group led by Deqing and Nanhua’s existing monks. This study highlights both the uniqueness of Buddhism in the often-overlooked Lingnan region—which, to a large part, determined the fate of Deqing’s reform—and the vitality and fragility of the ongoing late-Ming Buddhist renewal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
18 pages, 1006 KiB  
Article
Whence the 8th Day of the 4th Lunar Month as the Buddha’s Birthday
by Meiqiao Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(4), 451; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040451 - 27 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1459
Abstract
Two dates, the 8th day of the 4th lunar month (Date A) and the 8th day of the 2nd lunar month (Date B), are found in Chinese Buddhist translations as the Buddha’s birthday. However, how to understand the simultaneous existence of both of [...] Read more.
Two dates, the 8th day of the 4th lunar month (Date A) and the 8th day of the 2nd lunar month (Date B), are found in Chinese Buddhist translations as the Buddha’s birthday. However, how to understand the simultaneous existence of both of these dates remains an unresolved problem. This paper proposes a rather new interpretation to try to solve this puzzle, and provide an answer to the question: whence the 8th day of the 4th lunar month as the Buddha’s birthday? It is argued that: (1) The date of the Buddha’s conception and the date of his birth were both translated variously as Date A or Date B in early Chinese Buddhist literature. However, many later texts referring to the Buddha’s birthday do not include reference to an auspicious junction star (puṣyanakṣatra), which is critical for understanding these dates; (2) Both the Indian and Chinese traditions regard an individual’s life to begin at the moment of conception; therefore, the so-called Buddha’s birthday could be argued as the date of his conception; (3) The date of conception of the Buddha was specified as the 8th day of the śuklapakṣa of the month Vaiśākha, the day of the vernal equinox. This corresponds to Date A in the Chinese Xia calendar. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
15 pages, 802 KiB  
Article
The Number and Regional Distribution of Chinese Monks after the Mid-Qing Dynasty
by Xuesong Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(3), 317; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030317 - 27 Feb 2023
Viewed by 962
Abstract
The total number of ordination certificates issued between 1736 and 1739 was 340,112. Analyzing the amount and regional distribution of ordination certificates during the early Qianlong period is helpful for us in clarifying the amount and regional distribution of Chinese monks since the [...] Read more.
The total number of ordination certificates issued between 1736 and 1739 was 340,112. Analyzing the amount and regional distribution of ordination certificates during the early Qianlong period is helpful for us in clarifying the amount and regional distribution of Chinese monks since the mid-Qing Dynasty. The total number of Buddhist monks did not change measurably during the two hundred years from Qianlong’s reign until the Republic period, remaining between 600,000 and 700,000. Although the census in the 1930s did not cover Taoist monks, as previously discussed, their number may have been similar to that during Qianlong’s reign. As a result, the number of monks (both Buddhist and Taoist) did not changed much after the mid-Qing Dynasty, despite many historical changes since the 19th century, such as population growth, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement, the promotion of education with temple property, and the warlord conflicts. The number of Buddhist monks in Northern China declined significantly from 1742 to 1936, while that in the regions along the midstream and downstream of the Yangtze River and in Southwestern China, it increased significantly. However, the geographical layout of Chinese Buddhism did not changed much, as there was neither a noticeable decline nor a noticeable revival in the number of monks and nuns. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
24 pages, 1078 KiB  
Article
Research on the Interdependence and Interaction between Sacred Space and Religious Personality—Centered on the Political and Religious Image of Wanhui 萬回 (632–712)
by Jiajia Zheng
Religions 2023, 14(2), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020149 - 27 Jan 2023
Viewed by 1319
Abstract
As a famous “miraculous monk” dating from the Tang Dynasty, Wanhui (632–712) was favored by four emperors, Gaozong (r. 649–683), Empress Wu (regency: 684–690; reign: 690–705), Zhongzong (r. 683–684, r. 705–710) and Ruizong (r. 684–690, r. 710–712). Relying on his special religious status [...] Read more.
As a famous “miraculous monk” dating from the Tang Dynasty, Wanhui (632–712) was favored by four emperors, Gaozong (r. 649–683), Empress Wu (regency: 684–690; reign: 690–705), Zhongzong (r. 683–684, r. 705–710) and Ruizong (r. 684–690, r. 710–712). Relying on his special religious status as a Buddhist palace chaplain, he was alleged to have created religious momentum and to have advocated political opinions to maintain the “legitimacy” of the Li-Tang imperial family, but he was unfailingly able to avoid political persecution. Although there have been some academic publications on Wanhui and the group of “miraculous monks” and “mad monks” in the Tang Dynasty, there are still ambiguities in the understanding of Wanhui’s political and religious image. This article firstly conducts textual research on the interdependence and interaction between the sacred space of the Tang Buddhist palace chapel on the one hand and religious personality as represented by Wanhui on the other. The former gave the latter a rich religious sacredness, mystical charm and strong political support; while the latter, in turn, strengthened the religious and political functions of the unique Buddhist institution in the service of imperial power, manifesting itself in the consolidation and elevation of the former. Secondly, by investigating the reasons for shaping the political and religious images of Wanhui in monastic biography and Buddhist hagiography, this article argues that this was a conscious arrangement due to the political purposes or religious intentions of the compilers. Finally, by exploring how Wanhui exerted various subtle political and religious impacts on the Tang emperors by virtue of his status as a miraculous Buddhist palace chaplain—partly imparted by sacredness of the Buddhist palace chapel—this article attempts to shed new light on several key aspects of the complicated state–saṃgha relationship during this special period of the Tang Dynasty. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
14 pages, 916 KiB  
Article
The Creation of Jiansi: Study on the Buddhist Monastic Supervision System during the Sui and Tang Dynasties
by Jing Guo
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1156; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121156 - 28 Nov 2022
Viewed by 2066
Abstract
Besides the internal monastic supervision system of the “Three Principal Monks” already prevalent in the Sui and Tang dynasties, an additional lay-involved supervision system of jiansi was further added to the state religious policy to strengthen the control over the autonomy of the [...] Read more.
Besides the internal monastic supervision system of the “Three Principal Monks” already prevalent in the Sui and Tang dynasties, an additional lay-involved supervision system of jiansi was further added to the state religious policy to strengthen the control over the autonomy of the Buddhist community. This jiansi system can be seen once in the period of Gaochang Kingdom (449–640) in the Turpan region, and is traceable to the role of the Lay Rectifier of Monks created by Emperor Wu of Liang (r. 502–549) in the Southern dynasty. It is then officially created by Emperor Yang of Sui (r. 604–618) but failed quickly in the Tang dynasty. In the late Tang dynasty, it re-emerged in response to the state’s need to strengthen the control over Buddhist affairs and extended to new grassroots monastic officials such as Monastic Minister and Saṃgha Regulator in the Dunhuang area during the Tibetan occupation period and the Guiyi Army period. Thus, the development and evolution of the jiansi system in this period was both a reflection of the state-religion tension and a sinicization process of Buddhism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
25 pages, 4691 KiB  
Article
Techniques of the Supramundane: Physician-Monks’ Medical Skills during the Early Medieval China (220–589) in China
by Dawei Wang
Religions 2022, 13(11), 1044; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13111044 - 02 Nov 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1733
Abstract
Hagiographical tales tell us that some Buddhist monks who lived during the Early Medieval China (220–589) possessed considerable medical skills. Some were proficient in foreign medicine, while others had mastery over traditional Chinese medicine. The outstanding medical practitioners among these monks included Yu [...] Read more.
Hagiographical tales tell us that some Buddhist monks who lived during the Early Medieval China (220–589) possessed considerable medical skills. Some were proficient in foreign medicine, while others had mastery over traditional Chinese medicine. The outstanding medical practitioners among these monks included Yu Fakai 于法開, Zhi Facun 支法存, Sengshen 僧深, and Shi Daohong 釋道洪. In addition to having a background in traditional Chinese medicine, these individuals are said to have had access to foreign medical knowledge due to their status as monks. However, the literature on these physician-monks’ medical skills is limited, which is why the present paper aims to explore this matter further, especially by introducing and elaborating upon some modern Chinese research which has generally gone unnoticed in international scholarship. To this end, this paper critically analyzes various historical records detailing these monks’ lives. It shows that, in addition to having extraordinary medical skills, some of these physician-monks mastered methods to cure specific diseases (such as beriberi [jiaoqi bing 腳氣病] (This is the name of the disease in traditional Chinese Medicine. It refers to a disease characterized by numbness, soreness, weakness, contracture, swelling, or muscle withering in the legs and feet.)). It also shows that they were usually more accurate in syndrome differentiation, while the treatments they prescribed were unique. However, given the lack of information, further research is required to clarify how these physician-monks learned methods as well as the impact of their foreign medicine knowledge on their methods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
25 pages, 38892 KiB  
Article
A Study on the Literacy Rate of Buddhist Monks in Dunhuang during the Late Tang, Five Dynasties, and Early Song Period
by Shaowei Wu
Religions 2022, 13(10), 992; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100992 - 20 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2029
Abstract
Among the Dunhuang documents, when examining some of the monk signature lists, name list of monks copying scriptures and name list of monks chanting scriptures in monasteries, we can estimate a relatively accurate literacy rate of the Buddhist sangha. Generally speaking, the literacy [...] Read more.
Among the Dunhuang documents, when examining some of the monk signature lists, name list of monks copying scriptures and name list of monks chanting scriptures in monasteries, we can estimate a relatively accurate literacy rate of the Buddhist sangha. Generally speaking, the literacy rate of the sangha during the Guiyi Army 歸義軍 period (851–1036) was lower than that during the Tibetan occupation period (786–851). The reason for this change is closely related to each regime’s Buddhist policy, the size and living situation of the sangha, and the Buddhist atmosphere. The decrease in the literacy rate of the sangha had great negative consequences, but when viewed under the context of the stay at home monks and the secularization of Buddhism, the number of literate monks had actually increased. They were more closely integrated with the secular society and their functions in the regional society were more pronounced. At the same time, the changes in the literacy rate of the monks in Dunhuang can also serve as an important reference for understanding the development of Buddhism in the Central China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
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15 pages, 981 KiB  
Article
Commentarial Interpretations of the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa in the Controversy over Requiring Buddhist Monastics to Pay Homage to the Emperor during the Sui and Tang Dynasties
by Kai Sheng
Religions 2022, 13(10), 987; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100987 - 19 Oct 2022
Viewed by 1383
Abstract
Once Buddhism had become established in China, one of the central issues in the relations between the Saṃgha and the state was the ongoing controversy over requiring Buddhist monastics to pay homage to the emperor. When this controversy resurfaced at the end of [...] Read more.
Once Buddhism had become established in China, one of the central issues in the relations between the Saṃgha and the state was the ongoing controversy over requiring Buddhist monastics to pay homage to the emperor. When this controversy resurfaced at the end of the Sui dynasty and the beginning of the Tang dynasty, the participants in the debate frequently referred to the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa to support their arguments. In this paper, I discuss these references to the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa and how they were interpreted by various participants. I argue that the ideas of “the distinction between expedient means and monastic conventions” and “the distinction between individual realization and general ethics” prevalent in the Buddhist circles of the Sui and Tang dynasties are in line with the concepts of “veneration out of gratitude” and “signless veneration” used for interpreting the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa, indicating that the Sui and Tang Buddhist communities had a common understanding on this issue. A more extreme position was that of Kuiji, who interprets the relevant passages in the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa in terms of “forgetting decorum out of ignorance” in his arguments against the institutional feasibility of requiring monastics to pay homage to the emperor. The arguments put forth in this debate clearly reflect the interaction between Buddhism, absolute monarchy, and historical events in China, in a fusion of intellectual and social history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
27 pages, 4079 KiB  
Article
Hongzan’s Maitreya Belief in the Context of Late Imperial Chinese Monastic Revival and Chan Decline
by Xing Wang
Religions 2022, 13(10), 890; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100890 - 22 Sep 2022
Viewed by 1683
Abstract
This paper shows that the early Qing Chinese Buddhist monk Zaisan Hongzan’s belief in Maitreya and Tuṣita Heaven pure lands, as reflected in his collection of miracle tales and biographies, should be understood in a broader socio-religious context of Chan decline and monastic [...] Read more.
This paper shows that the early Qing Chinese Buddhist monk Zaisan Hongzan’s belief in Maitreya and Tuṣita Heaven pure lands, as reflected in his collection of miracle tales and biographies, should be understood in a broader socio-religious context of Chan decline and monastic revival in late imperial China. It is important to notice that instead of advocating for the combination of Chan and Amitābha’s Pure Land of Bliss practice, Hongzan proposed the most severe criticism of the Chinese Chan tradition since the Song dynasty. Through both his personal doctrinal writings and the narrative strategies applied in his Tuṣita Heaven miracle tales, Hongzan vividly displayed his concerns about literary Chan practice and argued for the pivotal and urgent need for Vinaya among monastic communities. Hongzan’s personal anti-Chan sentiment and his intention to reestablish the study and practice of Buddhist Vinaya disciplines in a time of alleged “crisis” of Chinese Buddhism strongly influenced how he composed and transcribed eminent monks’ biographies related to the cult of Maitreya and Tuṣita Heaven. A “hagiographic” reading of Hongzan’s miracle tale collections is necessary to understand his religious discourse in this special historical stage in China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
21 pages, 1919 KiB  
Article
Korean Potalaka: Legends about Naksan Temple Examined through Mountain and Sea Worship
by Erika Erzsébet Vörös
Religions 2022, 13(8), 691; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080691 - 27 Jul 2022
Viewed by 2245
Abstract
Several sites in East Asia have been identified as Potalaka, originally thought to be located near the southern seas of India. The basis of this phenomenon is built upon the nature of Avalokiteśvara as a mediator between sentient beings and buddhas, the nature [...] Read more.
Several sites in East Asia have been identified as Potalaka, originally thought to be located near the southern seas of India. The basis of this phenomenon is built upon the nature of Avalokiteśvara as a mediator between sentient beings and buddhas, the nature of Potalaka as a boundary between their worlds, and Buddhist philosophy. The belief in the abode of Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva on Earth incorporates various places into a Buddhist world transcending borders. This paper examines Korean beliefs about Potalaka and Avalokiteśvara through legends about Naksan Temple, with special emphasis on their relationship with mountain and sea worship. At the same time, the study attempts to connect the beliefs with the philosophical background of Hwaŏm tradition, which is in close relation with this ritual site. The aim of this approach is to point out the unique and universal, as well as the local and translocal elements in Korean narratives about Potalaka. In other words, the paper searches for patterns that are to be found in the wider Buddhist world and characteristics that are created by the specific religious environment of Korean culture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
23 pages, 2320 KiB  
Article
On Bonshakuji as the Penultimate Buddhist Temple to Protect the State in Early Japanese History
by George A. Keyworth
Religions 2022, 13(7), 641; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070641 - 12 Jul 2022
Viewed by 2155
Abstract
During the 740s in Japan, the emperor established Buddhist temples in nearly all the provinces, in which three Buddhist scriptures were chanted to avert natural disasters. Tōdaiji, in the recently constructed capital, was the head temple of a network of Temples of Bright [...] Read more.
During the 740s in Japan, the emperor established Buddhist temples in nearly all the provinces, in which three Buddhist scriptures were chanted to avert natural disasters. Tōdaiji, in the recently constructed capital, was the head temple of a network of Temples of Bright Golden Light and Four Heavenly Kings to Protect the State. The principal Buddhist scripture followed in these temples was the Golden Light Sūtra, translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in Tang China at the beginning of the 8th century. This article investigates the history of an understudied example of one of these temples, called Bonshakuji. Emperor Kanmu (r. 781–806) repurposed it in 786 after the introduction from China of novel rituals to protect the state. It had among the most important Buddhist temple libraries, which came to rival perhaps only that of Tōdaiji through the 12th century. I also examine how and why scholar officials and powerful monastics, particularly those associated with the so-called esoteric Tendai and Shingon temples of Enryakuji and Miidera, and Tōji and Daigoji, respectively, utilized the library of Bonshakuji and older and novel state protection texts kept there to preserve early Japanese state-supported Buddhist worldmaking efforts long after that state had become virtually bankrupt. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
14 pages, 898 KiB  
Article
The Astronomical Innovations of Monk Yixing 一行 (673–727)
by Jeffrey Kotyk
Religions 2022, 13(6), 543; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060543 - 13 Jun 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2177
Abstract
The Chinese monk Yixing 一行 (673–727) is unique in being an early architect of the Mantrayāna tradition (Esoteric Buddhism) in East Asia in addition to featuring as a significant individual within the history of astronomy and calendrical science in China. His legacy in [...] Read more.
The Chinese monk Yixing 一行 (673–727) is unique in being an early architect of the Mantrayāna tradition (Esoteric Buddhism) in East Asia in addition to featuring as a significant individual within the history of astronomy and calendrical science in China. His legacy in the Buddhist world is well known, but the enduring appreciation of his scientific work in later centuries is less understood. The present paper will document the achievements of Yixing’s work in astronomy while also discussing the perception and appreciation of his work in subsequent centuries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks)
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