Buddhism in Taiwan/Taiwanese Buddhism

Most of my previous and current research is about Taiwan, see my work on Buddhist women, religion and media, and Madhyamaka in modern China. My work also addressed theory and practice of rennin fojiao 人間佛教 and the issue of Taiwanese identity.

The chapter ‘Master Yinshun and Buddhist Nuns in/for the Human Realm. Shift and Continuity From Theory to Practice of renjian fojiao in Contemporary Taiwan,’ which is included in Storm, Carsten and Harrison, Mark (eds.), The Margins of Becoming. Identity and Culture in Taiwan. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007, pp.83-100, was first presented at the first EATS (European Association of Taiwan Studies) conference in 2004. This work is about Buddhist women within the context of the so-called renjian fojiao.

Buddhist pagodas in Taiwan are cases of micro-history that can reveal important foundational data on the macro-history and the identity-making-process of Taiwanese Buddhism. My study of Buddhist pagoda in Taiwan draws on concepts such as discursive identity, religious authority, and the visual making of a cross-strait lineage. A Buddhist pagoda is important because it contributes to ‘historicize’ religious figures. The ‘historicized’ figures are faces and voices of the new Taiwanese Buddhism, they constitute a new retrospective lineage that is challenged by cross-strait relations and the effect of the Japanese colonial period. The interlocking between written texts, visual culture and performative practices that takes place within the pagoda leads to the question of how discursive identity and religious authority are constructed and enacted. Preliminary conclusions of this research have been presented in the talk ‘Imaging History: Discursive Identity, Cross-Strait Lineage Construction, and a Taiwanese Pagoda’, at the East Asian Buddhism SymposiumCommunities of Memory: Reimagining and Reinventing the Past in East Asian Buddhism (22-25 May 2014, Hamburg, GERMANY). A revised version of this paper will be delivered at SOAS, Taiwan Studies Seminar, under the title ‘Picturing History: Models of Cross-strait Lineage Construction for Taiwanese Buddhism’ (5 March 2015, London, UK). This research will be included in an edited volume planned at the Symposium in Hamburg.

The concept of Taiwanese identity is also explored in ‘Experiences of Inclusiveness for Taiwanese Buddhism: Blurring Identities or Bridging Agencies?’, invited talk at the workshop Taiwanizing the World? Positioning Taiwan: Participation-Integration-Impacts (12 July 2014, Erlangen, GERMANY). Based on archive research, Buddhist gazettes, monks’ private correspondence, and fieldwork in Taiwan and Europe, this study aims to trace the historical and cultural roots of the concept Taiwan fojiao 台灣佛教, articulate a ‘de-Taiwanization’ of its essence and core elements, and finally map what I name the ‘transnational cycle’ of Taiwanese Buddhism. One section of the paper will show how Taiwanese Buddhism, which was founded on local and international factors, was transmitted abroad and so affected foreign Buddhist landscapes, and finally returned to Taiwan as redesigned by new exchanges, and thus has reshaped the religious scenario on the island. This talk will be a chapter of a volume on the theme of the workshop.

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