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Series:

Joshua Esler

Abstract

This paper explores the way in which the Hong Kong Christian education system, inherited from the British, has influenced certain Chinese practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism in the territory to follow a ‘Protestantised’ form of Tibetan Buddhism. This paper shows how such practitioners often reject a pragmatic approach to Tibetan Buddhism followed by other Chinese practitioners in Hong Kong, the latter of whom may bring ‘this worldly’ concerns to various deities, bodhisattvas and lamas. Arguing from an ‘alternative’ position on postcolonial and subaltern studies, this paper seeks to show how these Protestantised practitioners, while drawing from a modernist Christian perspective on Tibetan Buddhism, also appropriate the ‘rationalising’ aspects of their Christian education as well as Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal arguments to undermine this perspective. By mimicking the discourse of their Christian education, appropriating it to ‘prove’ the truth of Tibetan Buddhism, and at times undermining the logic of this discourse itself, such practitioners creatively ‘talk back.’

Series:

Christopher Hartney

Abstract

From 1926, Caodaism (Đạo Cao Đài) has flourished as the centre of new religious development in Vietnam. Its vast and complex syncretic theology continues to serve as a meeting ground between an East Asian tradition revivified (animism, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship) and a colonialist modernity localised (Catholicism, French Masonry, Theosophy, and Spiritualism). One of the significant paradigms through which this sacred re-narration of Vietnamese religious history can be conceptualised is through the great mural of the religion. Created to adorn the vestibule of every temple to God, the mural contains three historical figures that represent in essence the wider Caodaist religious and cultural project. In this chapter I examine in detail the symbolic relevance of these figures, Vietnamese poet and seer Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm [1491-1585], leader of the Chinese nationalist revolution Dr Sun Yat Sen [1866-1925], and French author Victor Hugo [1802-1885]. Separately they signify certain aspects of the modernist hope of those Vietnamese who came to worship them as saints of the new faith. Together in one mural, this chapter will reveal how these figures additionally symbolise a very specific global, modernist, and millenarian hope.

Series:

Laurens de Rooij

Abstract

The Country of Malaysia is not only diverse in culture and during its history, but also contains a plurality of active religious traditions. This unique lifestyle has affected modernizing transformations during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The influence of the minority religions on economic policy is a notable example. The socio-religious climate of Malaysia and its various ethnic groups have all contributed to economic and in turn political developments within the nation. This paper will explore the links of how the pluralist environment of the country has directly affected and continues to shape the social, economic, political discourse of the country. Subtle elements such as constitutional preference over one religion and the various economic policies show that the religious pluralism of Malaysia and globalising factors have had wide ranging influences on the country and its people. As such this paper will argue that in the development of Malaysia as a nation its many religious traditions have had a role to play. With arguably the minority religions being a more dominant factor that the majority Muslim community. These religions have interacted and influenced each other in developing Malaysian identity-politics and economic policy for its contemporary citizens.

Series:

Lawrence C. Reardon

Abstract

During the first three decades of the People’s Republic, Communist Party elites pursued a revolutionary political, economic, and social paradigm, whose long-term goal was to develop a strong national security, ensure prosperity, and strengthen the Party’s comprehensive control of the state. Elites eliminated all foreign religious connections, which were replaced with Party-approved religious organizations. The adoption of the techno-economic paradigm in the 1980s created high economic growth rates as well as widespread corruption that threatened Party’s legitimacy. In response, the Communist Party adapted the revolutionary social paradigm and initiated a moral re-armament campaign. Elites used traditional religions and beliefs to strengthen moral standards and to supplement the state’s social welfare role. Elites however were less trusting of foreign religions, because of their complicated history, their continued foreign connections, and their non-sanctioned religious practices. As long as elites retain the revolutionary social paradigm and its emphasis on Party primacy, elites will continue to favour traditional religions and beliefs while discriminating against foreign religions and heterodox religious movements.

Series:

David W. Kim

Abstract

The Korean peninsula of Northeast Asia was not well known to the powers and authorities of Western countries in the nineteenth century, for the royal family and their government of the Chosŏn dynasty (empire of Korea) had maintained an anti-western policy. The national policy did not last a long time; rather the western civilization of advanced science, technology, literature, and culture flowed into this oriental society, where there was a strong influence of Confucianism. Although Buddhist monks were in Korea, it was not the national religion. Instead, various activities of shamanism were performed in the life and culture of the Korean people. Christianity was a new religion to the local people in the nineteenth century. Then, how did the historical development of the Western religion take place in Korea? Was it part of the nineteenth century colonialism? Which country had the greatest effect on the early Korean Protestant movement? How did the Korean scripture (Sǒnggyo) emerge and affect the widespread use of Han’gŭl language in the society? This paper not only demonstrates the unique impact of a Scottish man over the early history of Korean Christianity and the development of Korean literature in 1870s-1890s, but also argues that the Korean diaspora in Manchuria under the principle of the ‘fulfilment theology’ performed as the vessel of John Ross for the modernization of the Hermit Kingdom.

Series:

Kevin N. Cawley

Abstract

In East Asia, the religious and intellectual history of women has been less seriously dealt with compared to that of men. In Korea, the focus has been most often on elite men who reinforced Confucian patriarchal ideals. Unfortunately, the Confucian hierarchy excluded women from the intellectual world and reinforced inequality and double standards at all levels. This paper gives a voice to the marginalised women who converted to Catholicism during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, but who have, once more, been overlooked at the expense of elite men. It will firstly outline how Confucian constructions of “good” women subjugated and delimited their possibilities vis-à-vis men. By engaging with contemporary critical theory, it articulates how marginalised women, who took the lead in spreading the Catholic faith, risking, and often losing their lives in doing so, unsettled Confucian constructions as they endeavoured to realise a new value system based on the Christian teaching of equality: this was considered “dangerous knowledge,” and seen as a threat to the state. This study focuses on two women in particular: Colombe Kang Wansuk (1760-1801) and Luthgarde Yi Suni (1781?-1802), who show us various ways in which Catholicism was transforming the lives of women, dissolving rigid binary notions of gender, allowing everyone to participate in the intellectual and spiritual world through the use of Han’gŭl, as well as developing a new religious modus vivendi for women and men.

Series:

Catharina Blomberg

Abstract

Japan has a long tradition of pilgrimages to Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and other sacred sites. The writings of two Western observers, Olof Eriksson Willman (1624?-1673) and Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), both of whom visited Japan as VOC employees, in 1651-1652 and 1775-1776 respectively, provide several examples of what they found remarkable about the pilgrims they encountered on the Tōkaidō and elsewhere. Their reactions to manifestations of an unfamiliar religion depended on their different backgrounds and the time in which they lived. Whereas Willman saw idolaters and devil worshippers, Thunberg regarded the Japanese faithful in a more tolerant light, influenced as he was by the Enlightenment in Europe. What strikes a contemporary observer about pilgrims today? The French sociologist Muriel Jolivet, who herself completed the pilgrimage to the eighty-eight temples in Shikoku associated with Kōbō Daishi, has provided insights into the mentality of today´s pilgrims, which does not appear to differ greatly from that of their Tokugawa predecessors.

Series:

Martin Wood

Abstract

Whilst some work has been carried out concerning the lives and events of Hindu saints associated with the Gujarāt region of Western India, there has been little sustained work on the life of and the miraculous events surrounding the popular Nineteenth Century, Lohānā saint Jalarām Bāpā. During his life, few would have known about Jalarām Bāpā beyond the Kathiawad region of Gujarāt, a region that at the time was experiencing considerable social, economic and political upheaval. Due to the nature of the Gujarātī Diaspora, however, Jalarām Bāpā has become a transnational phenomenon and the miraculous events that he is associated with have travelled with him. Despite his global popularity, however, no attempt has been made to contextualise the hagiographical narratives that speak of his teachings and miracles in nineteenth century Gujarat. This article will attempt to address this scholarly lacuna whilst at the same time providing an understanding of the wider religious and social fabric of the Gujarat at the time.

Series:

Lionel Obadia

Abstract

Based on first-hand ethnographic evidence and historical information, this section aims at portraying the transformations of religious traditions in the Himalayan mountain barriers, situated on the frontier between two great civilisations: Chinese, in the North, and Hindu, in the South. It specially focuses on Buddhist and Shamanic traditions installed in the Himalayan regions of Northern Nepal, on the Tibetan borderland. In Nepal, like in other regions in the Asian world, modernisation processes assume different forms and have varied effects on each religious tradition. Mahayana (Tibetan) Buddhism and (oracular) Shamanism in the Northern area of the Nepalese Himalayas are subjected to somewhat similar driving forces of modernisation, but respond to them in different ways. These two attitudes offer interesting grounds for highlighting and questioning theoretical and methodological issues regarding the use of the (originally Western-styled) concept of “modernity” in the context of the Himalayas.

Series:

Nicholas Campion and Ronnie Gale Dreyer

Abstract

In India jyotiṣa, which includes mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and divination, is one of the six vedāṅgas, ancillary branches of the Vedas necessary for understanding them. The technical tradition visible today has recognisable roots in Vedic hymns and calendars dating from the late second to mid-first millennium bce. In the second century ce, however, the use of horoscopes (planetary positions at the moment of birth) to portend the fate of the individual was introduced from the classical west, thus integrating with the Vedic tradition to form a uniquely Indian astrology. Today, astrology is invariably concerned with questions of destiny, serving a variety of functions designed for people to manage the present and inquire into the future. Oftentimes, there are corresponding rituals, intended to facilitate harmonisation with the flow of time, or to amend a predicted future. This article highlights the history of astrology in India (from the Vedas through the introduction of horoscopes); its technical and interpretative procedures in light of Vedic tradition; planetary deities; temple ritual; concepts of soul, karma and time; pilgrimage (especially the Kumbha Mela); philosophical contexts (including those articulated in, and inherited from, the classical and Hellenistic world); archaeoastronomy (city design and temple architecture related to the stars); sociological contexts, political functions, and notions of world ages. Finally, it will consider colonial dynamics and the modern western adoption of Indian astrology in the context of theories of enchantment, and the postmodern in western ‘alternative’ spiritualities and New Age ideology.