MRI Forum 52

"Contemporary Chinese Buddhism:
Doctrines and Practices"

by Ven. Guang Xing

and the book launch of
Guide to
Buddhist Temples of China:
History and cultural heritage of the main monasteries of the Han nationality
by Christian Cochini

Summary of the Presentation

Buddhism was introduced to China in 67 AD during the Han Dynasty and since then became a powerful religious tradition that had a profound influence on Chinese culture. Through its interaction particularly with Taoism and Confucianism it was gradually blended with Chinese culture and became genuinely Chinese Buddhism. It was not only due to the open-mindedness and all-inclusiveness of the Chinese nation, but also because Buddhism itself is a rich tradition, which serves as a supplement to the Chinese culture. Today, from all the Buddhist schools in China there are basically four main existing traditions: Pure Land, Chan, Tantra and Theravada. The latter two are found in Tibet and Yunnan areas. We will look at some of the ways Buddhism is practiced in China today, looking separately at lay practices and monastic life. However, as the Buddhist practice cannot in fact be understood without reference to Buddhist thought, we will examine the basic Buddhist doctrines in contemporary China as well.

In the 20th century all religions in China suffered social and political turmoil, but since the late 1970s they began recovery and revive. This transformation within Buddhism brought a distinction made between the practice of traditionalists and modernists and the development of the concepts renjian fojiao and renjian jingtu, which have been the most important phrases shaping contemporary Buddhism in China. The modernist approach has set much of the contemporary agenda. Today Chinese Buddhism continues to develop greatly and the international academic exchanges are expanding. Whether these signs of a revival of Buddhism in China are a tide, or a wave, only the future can reveal.

About the Book

The purpose of this “Guide to Buddhist Temples of China” is to foster, through visits, interreligious dialogue worldwide with the Buddhist communities of mainland China. The one hundred and fifty seven places listed in this volume describe only a limited number of the Chinese temples and monasteries, but they are the most important ones. Christian Cochini, who has spent many years in China, visited each one of them, met with Abbots and Members of monastic Communities, went thoroughly through the Chinese sources related to the history, the cultural patrimony and the present situation of all these temples. An unequalled summa, this book, the first of its kind in western language, is not a tourist guide, even if it prepares perfectly well for a trip, since it includes all data necessary for getting to the concerned places and making there a well prepared visit. Christian Cochini offers us, first and above all, an inventory of the cultural and spiritual richness of Chinese Buddhism, and an entrance to the amazing dynamics which it displays since the beginning of the years eighty.

Profile of the Speaker

廣興法師 Venerable Guang Xing is Assistant Professor in the Centre of Buddhist Studies of the University of Hong Kong. He studied Buddhism in Sri Lanka and England where he earned his PhD from SOAS (University of London). He has published various articles and two books: The Concept of the Buddha: Its Evolution from Early Buddhism to the Trikaya Theory (2005) and Renjian Fotuo – Lishi Fotuo Guan (The Historical Buddha, 2005). His fields of speciality are: Indo-Chinese Buddhism, Early Buddhism, Early Mahayana Buddhism, Chinese Buddhist thought and practice.

Profile of the Author

Christian Cochini, S.J. 高照民  received his Doctorate in Theology magna cum laude from the Catholic Institute of Paris in 1969, before a jury presided by the late Cardinal Jean Daniélou. He studied Chinese in Taiwan from 1961 to 1963, and taught French at the Guangdong Foreign Language Institute (now Guangdong University of Foreign Studies) both in 1973-74 and in 1986-90. From 1991 to 2001, he was the Director of the “Jesuit China Center” in Tokyo, a socio-pastoral Center to help the Chinese living in Japan. He was a member of the Macau Ricci Institute from 2002 to 2007, during which time he conducted a survey of the main Buddhist Temples in the People’s Republic of China, sponsored by the Institute. He resides now in Hong Kong and in China, where he keeps working in the field of interreligious dialogue with Chinese Buddhists communities. The French edition of his “Guide des Temples Bouddhistes de Chine” was published in April 2008 by Les Indes Savantes, in Paris, 704 pp., with a preface by  Benoit Vermander, Director of the Ricci Institute in Taipei.  Christian Cochini is also continuing  his research with a view of publishing a biography of the main “Eminent Monks” in the history of Chinese Buddhism.