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Author: Gregory N. Evon

Abstract

Offering a long view on the relationship between Buddhism and statecraft in the Korean context, this paper focuses on the Koryŏ 高麗 (936–1392)-Chosŏn 朝鮮 (1392–1910) transition when popular sentiment toward Buddhist means of statecraft was waning. Commencing with an overview of Koryŏ procedures of Buddhist statecraft, the study continues with an analysis of Chosŏn attitudes toward the region’s Buddhist past and exposes how notable Chosŏn politicians openly criticized Buddhism, situating it as a problem for statecraft and not a support. Revealing how statecraft was subsequently restructured in the Chosŏn to more closely align with Confucian norms than Buddhist ones, the paper ultimately suggests that Chosŏn rulers maintained an arms-length relationship with Buddhists and their traditions as a means of appeasing their populace. As such, the paper argues that the traditional alignment between Buddhism and the state in Korea had always been as much about statecraft as religious ideology or conviction.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

Abstract

A detailed study of the esoteric turn taken in state-protection Buddhism by the Tang 唐 (618–907) court, this paper focuses on the patronage of the esoteric master Amoghavajra (Bukong jin’gang 不空金剛) (704/5–774) at the court of Tang Daizong 代宗 (r. 762–779). In particular, and using a rare piece of entombed biography (muzhi 墓誌) as its source material, the study highlights the unique role of the “Commissioner of Merit and Virtue” (gongde shi 功德使) at the court and exposes how the person who held this role was both a commander of imperial troops as well as an administrator of Buddhist clergy. Ultimately, the paper positions Amoghavajra and the rise of his esoteric tradition within the Tang need for an imperial religion supported by a Buddhist-military complex and therefore adds valuable new data to the study of religion and state violence.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia
Author: Megan Bryson

Abstract

This paper connects the visual depictions of Dali Kingdom 大理 (937–1253) rulers in the Dali-produced Painting of Buddhist Images (Fanxiang juan 梵像卷) with traditions of imperial support and legitimation connected to the Scripture for Humane Kings (Renwang jing 仁王經), a text that was integral to the state-protection Buddhism of the Chinese Tang (618–907) dynasty. Arguing that the expression of the Dali rulers in the painting as “Humane Kings” served to elevate the status of the Dali ruler over and above that of the Chinese Song 宋 dynasty (960–1279) ruler, the study shows how procedures of Buddhist statecraft are constructed in hybrid and regionally-specific ways in order to serve localized political narratives and programs of state legitimation. Specifically, in the case of Dali, such procedures allowed for the independent assertion of imperial authority and cultural distinctiveness against the backdrop of China.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

Abstract

This study explores the ways in which King Chinhŭng (r. 540–576) of Silla 新羅 (trad. 57 BCE–935 CE) deployed Buddhist symbolism, architecture, and ritual as a means of supporting his rule and legitimating his power. To explore the Buddhist Statecraft of King Chinhŭng, the paper introduces us to the first of Silla’s Buddhist monastic overseers, an emigré Koguryŏ monk named Hyeryang 惠亮 (fl. 540–576), who aided the King in his establishment and implementation of state-protection rituals. Both the ecclesiastical position of the monk and his program of Buddhist statecraft expose important connections between the Buddhism of Silla and that of China; however, much of the imagery involved in the creation of the King’s Buddhist identity reveals an equally important commitment to Indian Buddhism and Indic notions of an ideal ruler. In sum, the study demonstrates that modalities of Buddhist statecraft are inherently syncretic and dynamically re-created across the spectrum of East Asia.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

Abstract

By asking the question of how Empress Dowager Ling’s (d. 528) posthumous name—Ling 靈—was heard and understood by the people who lived in the Northern Wei 北魏 (386–534) capital of Luoyang in the sixth century and who saw the demise of their court, their Empress Dowager, and their city, this paper probes the nature of the Empress Dowager’s contested rule and her close affiliation with Buddhists and Buddhist institutions. The paper highlights certain and particular ambivalence toward Buddhist statecraft at the court of the Empress Dowager and reveals that her own patronage of the Buddhist tradition was not supported by her courtiers who believed Buddhism to be an increasingly defiled and dangerous source of social and political power in their time. Finally, this paper argues that, to her supporters, the name Ling was auspicious and associated with popular Buddhist ritual; whereas, to her detractors, the name suggested the unnatural usurpation of political order associated with popular Buddhist rebellion.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

Abstract

This study examines the fuju fuse 不受不施 (“neither giving nor receiving”) controversy that divided the Nichiren sect in seventeenth-century Japan, highlighting the issue of Buddhist resistance to the state. Rooted in the founder Nichiren’s (1222–1282) teaching of exclusive devotion to the Lotus Sūtra, fuju fuse doctrine meant that a Nichiren priest should neither accept donations from, nor perform ritual services for, nonbelievers in the Lotus, to avoid complicity with “slander of the True Dharna.” Fuju fuse proponents accordingly refused to participate in state-sponsored ceremonies or to receive offerings from rulers who were not Lotus devotees, asserting the claims of the dharma over those of worldly rule. Their stance proved intolerable to the newly established Tokugawa shogunate, which sought to subordinate Buddhist temples within its own ideology and bureaucratic structure. Faced with government threats, the Nichiren sect divided over whether to compromise the strict fuju fuse principle to ensure institutional survival. Eventually, the conciliatory faction gained control of the sect, while committed fuju fuse adherents suffered arrest, exile, and execution. By way of historical analysis, the chapter situates fuju fuse resistance within a long, transregional tradition of Buddhist moral exemplars who defied the state.

Open Access
In: Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia

Abstract

Han Chinese lay Buddhists in major PRC cities can now often be seen adopting elements from Tibetan Buddhism into their practices. This trend has increased over the past two decades but has received relatively little attention in the scholarly literature. This chapter aims to address this gap by focusing on two questions: how do ordinary Han Chinese lay Buddhists in eastern cities come to adopt Tibetan Buddhist elements into their practices, and what does it look like when they do? Based on in-depth interviews and participant-observation with lay Buddhists in Nanjing, this chapter investigates common processes of encounter and adoption of Tibetan Buddhist elements. Through fine-grained profiles of three urban lay Buddhists and their activities, it also provides the first detailed illustration of what it looks like when these are incorporated into lay Buddhists’ practices and outlook. I argue that the majority of Han Chinese lay Buddhists who incorporate Tibetan Buddhism into their practice are “Accidental Esoterics.” That is, they did not intentionally seek out esoteric or Tibetan forms of Buddhism, and they adopted Tibetan Buddhism into their toolkits primarily based on availability and effectiveness, not because of a preference for Tibetan Buddhism over Chinese Buddhism. Specifically, I contend that we should understand the incorporation of Tibetan Buddhist elements into Han Chinese toolkits as (1) accidental in the majority of cases, (2) driven by availability rather than preference, (3) eclectic rather than exclusivist, and (4) surprisingly ubiquitous. This study thus suggests that previous research has missed two key points by focusing on the tiny minority of Han Chinese Buddhists who seek out Tibetan Buddhism, and by asking why people choose Tibetan Buddhism, rather than how people encounter and adopt it. First, that Tibetan Buddhist elements are found in the toolkits of a significant percentage of Han Chinese lay Buddhists in eastern cities. Second, that this trend, however large, may matter less than we suppose, as these Tibetan Buddhist elements are absorbed into people’s toolkits in a way that reduces their distinctiveness or impact on the worldviews of Han Chinese people.

In: Sino-Tibetan Buddhism across the Ages
Author: Wei Wu

Abstract

This chapter examines the translation and interpretation of Tibetan Buddhist commentaries in the early twentieth century in order to explore Chinese Buddhists’ reception of Tibetan Buddhism, focusing on Nenghai’s representation of Ornament of Realization, a treatise central to the Tibetan Buddhist scholarly tradition. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Nenghai translated several commentaries and used them to interpret the Ornament. He used these Tibetan commentaries to clarify doctrinal understanding and address the tensions that he perceived within the Chinese Buddhist community. This chapter analyzes Nenghai’s interpretations, thereby examining his strategy for promoting Tibetan Buddhism to Chinese Buddhists. By comparing the Ornament with other Chinese commentary works, Nenghai argued that Tibetan commentaries would offer a new lens with which to approach the Perfection of Wisdom literature in the Chinese Buddhist canon. He also believed they would help to deepen readers’ understanding of bodhicitta and other important Mahāyāna Buddhist ideas. Nenghai presented the treatise by drawing attention to its revelation of the bodhisattva practice, arguing that it provides useful guides for any person on their spiritual journey toward ultimate enlightenment and further suggesting that Tibetan commentaries serve to illuminate a systematic scheme by which the bodhicitta could be gradually and intentionally nurtured and developed toward the ultimate attainment of full enlightenment. This chapter shows that the translation of Tibetan commentaries did more than fill a gap in the Chinese Buddhist canon. Nenghai’s representation of the standpoints of the Indo-Tibetan masters reflected his understanding of the needs of the Chinese Buddhist community. Nenghai emphasized the efficacy of the perspectives brought by the treatise to the study and understanding of Buddhist teachings. Highlighting the bodhisattva path as a gradual process of learning and cultivation, Nenghai suggested ways to integrate a variety of scriptures into one’s study in order to better guide one’s cultivation.

In: Sino-Tibetan Buddhism across the Ages
Author: Linghui Zhang

Abstract

When it comes to the two attendants Dharmatāla and Hva shang, who were added into the Sixteenfold Arhat cycle by Tibetan practitioners, scholars have devoted much of their attention to the figures’ identities and iconographies, their sources of inspiration from China, and the historical circumstances in which they were first received by the Tibetans. However, information regarding how these two Sinitic icons ended up in the Tibetan pantheon and what religious and cultural impulses stimulated these additions remains vague. This chapter first sketches the multiple strands of religious impulse embedded within the imagery, sādhana practice, and scriptural sources of the Chinese and Tibetan Sixteen Arhats ritual traditions, respectively. It traces early visual representations of the cult in China, and its densely ritualized context in Tibet. Then, it turns to an evaluation of the two attendants added to the Tibetan roster, concluding that these Tibetan recruitments represent an appropriation of pre-existinent Sinitic iconic identities for ritual ends—a conclusion that presents profound implications for further research on possible Sinitic influences on Tibetan Buddhist ritual practice enacted through the medium of the Hexi religious landscape.

In: Sino-Tibetan Buddhism across the Ages