Madhyamaka in Modern China

My doctoral research questioned doctrinal, philological and historical issues in the process of re-evaluation and re-invention of Chinese Buddhism in twentieth-century China and Taiwan. My dissertation entitled ‘The Mādhyamika Dimension of Yinshun. A Re-statement of the School of Nāgārjuna in Twentieth-Century Chinese Buddhism’ focused on the monk Yinshun (1906-2005), one of the most outstanding and influential Buddhist figures in twentieth-century Chinese Buddhism. My work assessed Yinshun’s contribution to Madhyamaka scholarship in modern China, arguing that he played a key role in the revival of the school and that this revival was instrumental to his overall plan for reinventing Chinese Mahāyāna in a particular historical moment and intellectual milieu where issues of nationalism and identity were crucial. Drawing on my training in Sinology and Buddhist texts, my dissertation addressed the modern interpretation and adaptation of the scriptures, doctrines, and rituals of pre-modern Chinese Buddhism.

The core argument of my dissertation has been delivered in the paper ‘The Mādhyamika Dimension of Twentieth-century Chinese Buddhism: A Re-statement of the School of Nāgārjuna in the Republican Period’, presented at the Historical Society for Twentieth-Century China Biannual Conference (26-27 June, 2010, Philadelphia, USA).

One part of my doctoral research analysed Yinshun’s analysis of three main scriptures, which he considered as foundational of (Chinese) Madhyamaka: Zhong lun 中論, Da zhidu lun 大智度論, and Shizhu piposha lun 十住毗婆沙論. For my study of Yinshun’s interpretation of Zhong lun see ‘What is behind Yinshun’s Re-statement of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā? Debates on the Creation of a New Mahāyāna in twentieth-century China.’ In Buddhist Studies Review, 29:2, 2012, pp.251-272. My work on Yinshun’s assessment of Shizhu piposha lun has been published in ‘Yinshun’s Re-Assessment of Shizhu piposha lun 十住毗婆沙論: A Madhyamaka-based Pure Land Practice in Twentieth-century Taiwan.’ In Contemporary Buddhism, 14:2, 2013, pp.320-343.

Yinshun conducted an extensive study of Da zhidu lun, also engaging with Japanese and Western scholarship on this text. My research on this topic will be published in the volume Yinshun and his Exposition of Madhyamaka: New Studies of the Da Zhidu Lun in Twentieth-century China and Taiwan, London: Equinox Publishing Ltd. [forthcoming in 2015].

A second book-length manuscript, which expand on another section of my PhD dissertation, is in progress with the working title The Madhyamaka dimension of twentieth-century Chinese Buddhism: A Re-statement of the School of Nāgārjuna in the New China.