Buddhism in China during the late Qing and Republican period remained a powerful cultural and religious force. Francesca Tarocco is a rising star in this field and offers an innovative high-quality piece of work that presents a new perspective on the influence of Buddhism on Chinese culture. Drawing on scarcely analyzed historical and archive sources, including photographs and musical scores, Tarocco adeptly argues that Chinese Buddhism played a more vital role in shaping Chinese culture than previously assumed.
This enlightening study fills a significant gap in the field of Chinese Buddhist history. Focusing on the cultural side of Buddhism, it adds breadth and balance to studies in Buddhism as a whole, appealing to professionals and academics with an interest in Buddhism and Chinese Buddhist history.
The study of religious ideas, religious practices and religious figures are relatively neglected areas of research in the historiography of modern China. Despite a slow growth of relevant scholarship since the 1990s, there is a tendency still to regard them as peripheral to larger questions of the formation of the modern nation-state. It is true that since the late nineteenth century religion has come under attack from various sides and that secularizing ideas have been central to the political philosophies of China's rulers, both Nationalist and Communist. Yet, if one stands back from cruder narratives of religious decline and religious persecution, and broadens one's perspectives beyond the conventional narrative, a complex of religious ideas and practices are suddenly found to be relevant to many republican Chinese.
stern musical expressions, little has so far been said about Buddhist contributions.
From Part 1. The Cultural Practices of Buddhist Modernity:
Buddhist-inspired activities flourished again in China's lower Yangzi region (Jiangnan) in the latter part of the nineteenth centuy following the relatively brief but disruptive period of Taiping rule over the area. Numerous communities of Buddhists were active in Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and other wealthy cities of the Jiangnan region, whose inhabitants turned to well-established practices, but also developed new ones connected with the rapidly evolving socio-cultural landscape.Prominent Chinese political and cultural activists, artists, writers, journalists and musicians including Yang Wenhui, Kang Youwei, Lu Bicheng, Liang Qichao, Ding Fubao, Yan Fu, Feng Zikai, Xiong Shili, Tan Sitong, Zhang Binglin, Su Manshu and Li Shutong, were involved with Buddhist-inspired cultural practices. Buddhist books and other printed matter were published and distributed at an ever-increasing rate following the proliferation of the modern mass media during the first decades of the twentieth century. And Buddhist interest groups issued an extraordinary 150 Buddhist periodical publications. My contention here is that Buddhism was more relevant to people's lives during the republican period than is usually acknowledged, and deserves more attention than it has so far received from scholars of modern China.
From Part 2. The Sound of Modern Buddhism:
In the 1930s collective singing resounded at the sites of Chinese modernity, the prisons, hospitals, military instruction camps and modern schools which were the effective testing grounds of the modernizing elite's vision of a new China...