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Authors: Gildow, Douglas
Advisors: Teiser, Stephen F
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Buddhism
Subjects: Religion
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines Buddhist monastic education in contemporary China, analyzing the relationships between seminaries, other monastic institutions, the secular education system, and state institutions and policies. The Buddhist seminary did not emerge in China until the twentieth century but has since developed into a central component of monasticism. This study argues that to understand the impact of seminaries on Buddhism, we must also understand how seminaries are influenced by the state and academia. In short, this project shows that Chinese Buddhist responses to modernity transform institutions and doctrinal understandings, and that such developments are reflected and enacted within seminaries. In analyzing contemporary Chinese Buddhism, I draw on seminary curricula and related documents as well as observations and interviews conducted during eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in China. I focus on institutional history and leadership. I argue that the growth of seminaries in China is a case of a general spread of schooling throughout various social sectors. Therefore seminaries are part of a larger story of the spread of formalized training and credentialing in modern societies. Yet the distribution, structure, and curricula of seminaries reflect the vicissitudes of Chinese history. The dissertation argues that seminaries have already cemented their place alongside monasteries as key sites for training and producing Buddhist leadership. But how seminaries should respond to state-sanctioned, secular modes of studying Buddhism, which challenge traditional understandings, is still debated. Thus I show, in China and for Buddhism, how academic religious studies not only elucidates religion but also shapes the history of religion. Seminaries today generally adopt a balance of responses, from accommodation to resistance, toward the state and academia, promoting institutional reform on the one hand and doctrinal conservativism on the other. Accommodation adapts Buddhism to contemporary norms yet risks subordinating Buddhism to secular institutions; resistance protects Chinese Buddhism’s unique character yet isolates it from broader intellectual and social currents. Forecasting religious change is difficult, but the utility, mutual compatibility and long-term viability of these various responses within seminaries will in large part determine Chinese Buddhism’s future.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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