The Space of Religion
Temple, State, and Buddhist Communities in Modern China
- ISBN: 9780231197359
- Published By: Columbia University Press
- Published: August 2023
The Nanputuo Temple in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen has been a cherished site for the worship of the bodhisattva Guanyin for centuries. It was a center of modernizing Buddhism in the early twentieth century and a flagship for the revival of Buddhism after state suppression during the Cultural Revolution. The Space of Religion takes readers inside the Nanputuo Temple in order to explore the practice of Buddhism in modern China and the complex relationship between Buddhism and the Chinese state.
Based on three decades of ethnographic research, Yoshiko Ashiwa and David L. Wank tell the story of Nanputuo against the backdrop of a dramatic stretch of Chinese history. They vividly depict episodes such as renovating the halls, reestablishing ties with overseas Chinese donors, conflicts with local government, revival of ritual life, reopening of its Buddhist academy, and the passion of the Guanyin birthday festival. To understand Nanputuo, Buddhist communities, and other temples in Xiamen, Ashiwa and Wank develop the concept of religion as a space constituted by physical, semiotic, and institutional dimensions. They also show how the Chinese state and Buddhism have each adapted to the other, as the temple has adjusted to government policy while the state has deployed Buddhism in its promotion of Chinese culture.
This interdisciplinary book is both a theoretically generative analysis of religious spaces and an empirically rich account of the recovery of Buddhism in China after the Mao era.