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The Middle Kingdom and the Dharma Wheel

Aspects of the Relationship between the Buddhist Saṃgha and the State in Chinese History

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Edited by Thomas Jülch

The matter of saṃgha-state relations is of central importance to both the political and the religious history of China. The volume The Middle Kingdom and the Dharma Wheel brings together, for the first time, articles relating to this field covering a time span from the early Tang until the Qing dynasty. In order to portray also the remarkable thematic diversity of the field, each of the articles not only refers to a different time but also discusses a different aspect of the subject.
Contributors include: Chris Atwood, Chen Jinhua, Max Deeg, Barend ter Haar, Thomas Jülch, Albert Welter and Zhang Dewei.

Lightning from the East

Heterodoxy and Christianity in Contemporary China

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Emily Dunn

The Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, teaches that Jesus Christ has returned to earth as a Chinese woman to judge humankind. The Chinese government has banned it and similar groups, and targeted them in its campaign against “cults” such as Falun Gong.

Based on the Church’s own texts and exogenous reports, Emily Dunn offers the first comprehensive account of what the Church of Almighty God teaches, how Chinese Christians and the government have responded to new religious movements related to Protestantism, and how it all fits with global Christianity and the history of Chinese religion.

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Christopher P. Atwood


Abstract

Within the Chinese religious market, Daoists and Confucians have often attempted to stigmatize Buddhism as a foreign religion. In the early Mongol Yuan dynasty (1206-1368), Daoist circulation of anti-Buddhist tracts such as Laozi huahu jing gave new life to these accusations, even as Buddhist and Daoist clergy came in conflict over government patronage and tax exemptions. Yet after the death of Qubilai Qa’an in 1294, conflicts over the application of Mongol clerical tax exemptions generated a new dynamic pitting the native clergy, Daoist and Buddhist, against the immigrant clergy, Muslim and Christian. Despite the presence of high-profile Tibetan Buddhists, the Buddhist clerical bureaucracy as a whole was able to picture Christian and Muslim clergy in ways that tapped into anti-immigrant feelings. This dynamic reached its apex in the policies of emperor Yisün-Temür (Taidingdi), who reigned from 1323 to 1328, and the reaction against them after his death. These tensions within the Mongol religious policy, which on paper treated the four main bodies of clergy (Buddhism, Christianity, Daoist, and Muslim) equally, shows the impact of the differing economic standpoint implicit in the native-immigrant dichotomy.


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Jinhua Chen

Abstract

The ten-year period between 704 and 713 has been widely recognized as a watershed in one of the greatest dynasties of imperial China. This period witnessed the restoration of the Great Tang, ending the reign of the only female ruler in medieval China, and the beginning of Tang solidification under one of the most capable rulers in Chinese history. The import of this period has therefore been hotly debated over the past decades. The roles played by religious figures in this period have, however, remained largely unexplored. This article aims at reconstructing the life of a scarcely documented Central Asian monk, who was active in Tang China towards the end of the seventh century and the beginning of the eighth. It addresses several long-obscured aspects of the sociopolitical and religious reality of the period by integrating the perspectives of a key player within contemporary religious and political institutions. It aims at shedding new light on the Byzantine world of court intrigues, factional strife, political ambition and shady business deals that filled the days of powerful monks, officials, and emperors alike at the dawn of the eighth century.


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Albert Welter

Abstract

This study explores a Buddhist response to the challenges facing Buddhism in the Song dynasty through an examination of the Buddhist literati-monk Zanning’s (919-1001) Da Song Seng shilue 大宋僧史略 (Topical Compendium of the Buddhist Clergy compiled in the Great Song dynasty, often also translated as Brief History of the Sangha). The work, written at the request of Song emperor Taizong (r. 976-997), argues for a legitimate role for Buddhism in China and active participation of Buddhist monks and institutions in the affairs of the Chinese state. The purpose of the Da Song Seng shilue was to inform the emperor and his officials of pertinent facts regarding Buddhism in China useful for the administration of the sangha, especially regarding the propagation of the Buddhist faith in China, and the institutional and social history of Buddhism and Buddhist institutions.


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Dewei Zhang

Abstract

Miaofeng Fudeng was a most respected monk who had incomparable influence in the late Ming samgha, except a few leading masters like Hanshan Deqing, Zibo Zhenke, and Yunqi Zhuhong. However, he has been unduly ignored by later generations. This paper reconstructs his life by piecing together fragmentary information and, in connection with his religious and non-religious life, explores how he obtained and maintained his extraordinary influence. In particular, two features stood out in his life. First, Fudeng received huge favors repeatedly from the inner court but remained rooted deeply in local society. Second, Fudeng was extremely active in the religious and social field but clearly shunned from politics. Consequently, Fudeng maximized his influence and avoided being entrapped in court strife, which proved disastrous to both Deqing and Zhenke. Fudeng represented a stable constructive force in the contemporary Buddhist community, and his formidable achievements enriches our understanding of the samgha-state relationship.


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Thomas Jülch

Abstract

The Buddhist monk Falin (572–640) is author of a complex apologetic work designed to defend Buddhism in the face of political threats that manifested in the early Tang dynasty. Employing a wide repertoire of arguments, Falin demonstrates that Buddhism could help to stabilize the state, would importantly enhance Confucianism, and would in many respects be superior to Daoism. The present article draws a picture of Falin’s apologetic mission based on Falin’s scriptures Poxie lun and Bianzheng lun, as well as on the hagiographic sources describing Falin’s life. In the analysis of Falin’s apologetic argumentation, particular emphasis is given to pointing out lines of continuity between Falin and previous works of Buddhist apologetic writing. Finally the article discusses in how far the Buddhist apologetic argumentation seen in Falin was further employed in the different ideological climate of the Song dynasty.


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Thomas Jülch

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Thomas Jülch

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Max Deeg

Abstract

This article examines an aspect of the political and didactic agenda in Xuanzang’s (602?-664) Datang xiyu ji (Record of the Western Regions of the Great Tang). It discusses Xuanzang’s representation of the Indian king Harṣavardhana Śīlāditya (r. 606-648) and his dynasty in comparison with the available Indian sources (epigraphy, literature) and argues that certain differences between these two strands of sources are partially due to Xuanzang’s attempt of presenting the Tang emperor Taizong with an Indian dynasty and ruler who are at par with the house of Tang but who also represent, in the case of Harṣa and his actions and policies, the model of an ideal Buddhist king. It will further be argued that in the passages from the Xiyu ji discussed, Xuanzang indirectly tried to influence the Chinese emperor (and his heir, the later emperor Gaozong) without directly criticizing his former actions and his political decisions.