Buddhist Positioning in the People’s Republic of China (1978-2023)
Buddhist Positioning in the People’s Republic of China (1978-2023): Historical Discourse Analysis of the Introduction and Interpretation of the Concept of ‘Humanistic Buddhism’ (renjian fojiao 人間佛教) by the Buddhist Association of China (Zhongguo fojiao xiehui 中国佛教协会)
Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Project number 463407334
The emergence of the term renjian fojiao (人间佛教) as a core concept in Buddhist intellectual history in the Chinese-speaking world since the 1930s (and 1940s) is regarded as both a reflection and a catalyst of a new conceptual way of thinking. This term, translated most widely as ‘Humanistic Buddhism’, has been connected closely to its creator, the reform-minded monk Taixu (1890–1947). He called for a renewed focus on original Buddhist values of this-worldly orientation in tandem with ongoing adaptations to modern society. The conceptual dimensions of renjian fojiao were paid attention by international research with the main focus on Taixu and the later development in Taiwan.The objective of the envisaged research project is to reconstruct the complex history of the introduction and diverse textual interpretations of renjian fojiao in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the concept unfolded in the (discursive) context of the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) in the period 1978–2023. It will investigate which discursive events led to and resulted from the distinctive route the concept has taken in Mainland China since the 1980s, where it was first included in, then omitted from and included again in the BAC’s constitution. The discursive process includes adaptations of the term to changes in religious politics, distinctions from and adoptions of modernization efforts spearheaded in Taiwan, and debates about secularization trends, as well as reorientations towards early Buddhism in the name of ‘Humanistic Buddhism’. Additionally, it encompasses occasional considerations about completely abolishing the enigmatic notion. Analysing the complex discursive history of the changing textual interpretations and strategic usages of renjian fojiao by the BAC is thus all the more important, not only with regard to the recent history of Buddhism in the PRC, but also with a view to its future developments. Based on philological studies of a comprehensive textual material, and given the increasing historical complexity and interdependency of religious, political and scholarly discourses on renjian fojiao, the envisaged project will make a substantial contribution to better understanding the discursive developments of Chinese Buddhism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
The research project is led by Dr. Carsten Krause. For this he has applied for a so-called “own position” as part of the DFG funding. In addition to the interdisciplinary exchange within the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies and the Asia-Africa Institute of Universität Hamburg, the project includes the exchange with experts of Buddhist Studies and Buddhist centers worldwide.
You are welcome to contact Dr. Carsten Krause, research fellow of the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the Universität Hamburg: firstname.lastname@example.org( carsten.krause"AT"uni-hamburg.de).