The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History


Author: Barend ter Haar
This book provides a new hypothesis for understanding the real nature of the term White Lotus Teachings. The author argues that there are actually two different phenomena covered by similar terms: from c. 1130 until 1400, a real lay Buddhist movement existed, which can be called the White Lotus movement. It enjoyed the respect of contemporary literati and religious elites. The movement used the autonym White Lotus Society, which came to be prohibited in the early Ming and was discarded as a result. After 1525, the name reappeared in the form White Lotus Teachings, but now only as a derogatory label, used by officials and literati rather than by believers themselves.
As a result of this hypothesis, the history of the "White Lotus Teachings" changes from one of religious groups and magicians into one of elite ideology and religious persecution. The book is therefore important both for historians and anthropologists of Chinese religion and society, and for comparative historians interested in the ideological and social construction of "heterodoxy".

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B.J. ter Haar is presently a Research Fellow of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. He works on the history of lay religious groups and mentality.
'Ter Haar's critique is more carefully presented and more painstakingly defended than any study that has appeared before it, in any language...One would hope that this young scholar will continue to produce work of this caliber...'
Randall Nadeau, Journal of Chinese Religions, 1994.
'...ter Haar has written a most significant book, one which revises our understanding of the White Lotus tradition and raises numerous challenging issues for further exploration.'
Richard Shek, China Review International, 1996.