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When the Tsunami Came to Shore

Culture and Disaster in Japan

Edited by Roy Starrs

Edited by Roy Starrs, this collection of essays by an international group of leading experts on Japanese religion, anthropology, history, literature and music presents new research and thinking on the long and complex relationship between culture and disaster in Japan, one of the most “disaster-prone” countries in the world. Focusing first on responses to the triple disasters of March 2011, the book then puts the topic in a wider historical context by looking at responses to earlier disasters, both natural and man-made, including the great quakes of 1995 and 1923 and the atomic bombings of 1945. This wide-ranging “double structure” enables an in-depth understanding of the complexities of the issues involved that goes well beyond the clichés and the headlines.

Taiwan's Tzu Chi as Engaged Buddhism

Origins, Organization, Appeal and Social Impact

Yu-Shuang Yao

This book is the first comprehensive sociological account and in-depth analysis of a new Chinese Buddhist movement, known as Tzu Chi (otherwise, the Buddhist Compassion Merit Society). Based in Taiwan, it was founded in 1966 and still led by a female Buddhist master – Master Cheng Yen. Its members are laity, and women play a major role. The main focus of the movement is medical charity – to ease and if possible prevent suffering and to teach ethics to the wealthy; at the same time, it also offers members a religion and a way of life. Recruitment typically attracts people from the urban middle class. With some 3.5 million members and a very low drop-out rate, Tzu Chi is extraordinarily successful, and has spread to other parts of the world, not least mainland China where it is attracting the attention of the general public and the media.

The book stands in the Anglo-American tradition of the sociology of religion; it also draws on the author’s knowledge of Buddhist history. The data come from participant observation and many long interviews. It will be of particular interest to students of new religious movements, religious studies in contemporary China, and studies in ethics and social change in East Asia.