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Seekers and Seers: Lay Buddhists and Buddhist Revival in Rural China

佛头与神婆: 农村的居士佛教与中国当代佛教复兴

In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
Author:
Shin-yi Chao (趙昕毅) Department of Religion and Classics, University of Rochester (宗教與古典研究系, 羅徹斯特大學) Rochester, NY USA

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Abstract

This paper explores lay Buddhism in contemporary rural North China through investigating the practice and practitioners of “Buddha-chanting” (nianfo 念佛) in relation to local religion, monastic Buddhism, and spirit mediums. The nianfo groups are led by and consist of ordinary villagers, overwhelmingly female. They meet in private houses or village temples of local deities. The groups are not subject to the authority of clergy, but individual group members, especially the leaders, may maintain a close relationship with a Buddhist monastery. These individuals are a link from monastic Buddhism to the Buddhist masses in villages, and the nianfo groups are the nexus of the networks. Members of the nianfo groups have a clear sense of being Buddhist while they also participate in activities of local religion. In addition, village spirit mediums, with whom the villagers often consult during crises, command some influence. They have also played a consequential role in the process of restoring Buddhism in the area.

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