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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


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


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.


Thomas Jülch


Barend J. ter Haar


How strong was Qing institutional control over the Buddhist saṃgha in actual practice? The existence of a bureaucratic apparatus for controlling the monastic community is often stressed as an inhibiting factor for Buddhist and Daoist traditions, but at the same time its abolishment in the late eighteenth century is depicted as a factor furthering religious decline. This analysis ignores the agency of religious institutions, as if the state is the only institution that could preserve the quality of religious activity. Here I approach this topic from two angles. First I analyse some quantitative information on the total numbers of monks and nuns in order to ascertain the degree to which the Qing state was able to keep track of the members of the saṃgha. I will argue that the reach of the state was much more limited than is commonly thought. I then flesh out this argument by looking more closely at the failure of institutional control in the actual lives of prominent Buddhist monks.