11:00 am – 12:45 pm
- Chaired by Friederike Assandri
- Jakub Otčenášek, “Time Against Time: Types of Millennialism in the Early Way of the Celestial Masters”
- Valente Lee, “New Light from Chu Divinatory Bamboo Slips: Issues on the Practices of Divination in ca. 4th Century BC”
- Ann Heirman, “Insects in Chinese Buddhist vinaya Commentaries: From Non-Killing to Release and Protection”
- Mariia Lepneva, “The Life-Giving Power of the Word: Generation Demarcation Stanzas and Buddhist Lineage Formation in Early Modern China”
- Tsintsin Peng, “Evolution and Enlightenment. Taixu and His Writing of Buddhist History”
Jakub Otčenášek, “Time Against Time: Types of Millennialism in the Early Way of the Celestial Masters”
Chinese millennialism (millenarianism, messianism etc.) has been distinguished mainly by two features—the notion of the Great Peace (as a Chinese version of Millennium) and the cyclic time. Tianshidao, or the Way of the Celestial Masters, has been often presented as crucial for the development of Chinese millennialism. This paper is focused on the texts of its early stage (2nd–5th century) with the following questions: Does the term Great Peace always refer to millennialism? Is there a unified millennial worldview or are we dealing with various kinds of millennialism? Is there just a one-time model associated with the Great Peace? Is the cyclic character its dominant feature? The conclusions are based on the observation of the relations between different worldviews presented by the texts and the models of time they employ.
Valente Lee, “New Light from Chu Divinatory Bamboo Slips: Issues on the Practices of Divination in ca. 4th Century BC”
Divination is an important occult ritual which correlates not only to the religious realm but also aids the crafting of one’s secular life. Bu (pyromancy) and shi (stalk divination), both categorised as “inductive divination” in technical terms, were the most dominant forms of divination in early China. They required not only observation and interpretation of portents but also artificial “production” of portents, which allows human manipulation of divinatory events.
Previous scholarship has revealed a dramatic change in the function of divination, namely that divination became not only a means of informing the diviners about the future, but of also controlling the future, during the late Shang and early Western Zhou (i.e. ca. 11th c. BC), but its subsequent development in later periods remains under-explored.
New documentary evidence shows that the use of divination as a fate-controlling agent was regularised and systematised toward the 4th century BC. The paper surveys a cache of the Warring States divinatory records, commonly known as divinatory bamboo slips (bushi jian) of the Chu State. The evidence bears witnesses to unprecedentedly systematic practices of “repeated divination” and “secondary divination”, through which diviners were able to direct the ultimate divinatory results to fulfil his pre-expected outcomes. It is suggested that more than a consultant, diviners had taken a more active role as the moderator of divinatory results. The article analyses the role of men’s will and intervention in divination and argues that divination was deliberately “made” into an agent that achieved a desirable life in ca. 4th century BC.
Ann Heirman, “Insects in Chinese Buddhist vinaya Commentaries: From Non-Killing to Release and Protection”
While it is well-known that Buddhist texts call for the protection of all living beings, humans and animals alike, it is less clear what this exactly implies. What does protection involve? How far does it go? Are guidelines equal to all animals? In this paper, we pay attention to the tiniest animals, the insects, often seen as insignificant or annoying, but sometimes also as dangerous, or, on the contrary, useful to human beings. Our study focuses on a crucial period of Chinese Buddhism, going from the fifth century to the Tang Dynasty (618–907), a period when a wealth of major Indian vinaya (disciplinary) texts was translated to Chinese, laying the foundation of Chinese Buddhism. We rely particularly on the commentaries and guidelines of Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667), who laid down the standard for monastic behaviour in China for centuries to come, even up to contemporary times. In his texts, Daoxuan strongly adheres to the Indian vinayas, and in this way, he argues for a ban on killing and harming animal life, including insects. As we will see, however, Daoxuan extends the vinaya arguments to advocate for the protection of insects in all situations. As a consequence, he cannot but plea against many economic realities, such as agricultural practices or the harvest of honey and silk, even if this is strongly opposed to Chinese customs and, in the case of silk, even to Chinese identity.
Mariia Lepneva, “The Life-Giving Power of the Word: Generation Demarcation Stanzas and Buddhist Lineage Formation in Early Modern China”
When Buddhist masters in Early Modern China wished to establish a new lineage, they did so by composing ‘generation demarcation stanzas’ (paibeishi 派輩詩), according to which the names of neophytes would be reshaped to show their spiritual succession and factional fraternity. A character from the verse would be grafted into the clerical name of a novice at tonsure, and for the most outstanding monastics another naming metamorphose would occur at the time of dharma transmission. This paper probes into how far Buddhist masters could fare in forming new lineages, and what were the pitfalls of applying this poetic tool to fuel partisanship. The case under scrutiny here is a reformist move by an eighteenth-century Vinaya patriarch Wenhai Fuju who sought to shift the point of ascribing lineage affiliation from tonsure or dharma transmission to precepts reception. Through the close reading of relevant writings by Vinaya masters from the sixteenth through the early twentieth century, the current research reveals how personal attribution to a lineage and its alteration was perceived, and then moves on to unveil the intricacies and implications of calibrating the wording of a generation demarcation stanza. Finally, the actual fortunes of Wenhai Fuju’s reform are traced and the main factors affecting its implementation are identified by analysing at the biographies of his disciples.
Tsintsin Peng, “Evolution and Enlightenment. Taixu and His Writing of Buddhist History”
From Late Qing to Republican China, the traditional narrative of Buddhism has been challenged by the concept of linear time and the modern evolutionary view of history. Taixu 太虛, the leader of the ‘doctrinal reform’ of Buddhism, is one representative figure who made his effort to establish a pragmatic, critical, and structured Buddhist history focused on change, continuity, and relationship. The aim of my study is to demonstrate Taixu’s understanding of the origin, development, and periodisation of Buddhism and his fundamental concept of history. Based on a preliminary investigation of Taixu’s literature on history, I point to his endeavor to reconcile the cosmological conflicts between Buddhism and the modern worldview and his concerns about the future of Buddhism in the project of Chinese modernisation. I argue that the writing of Buddhist history represents how Chinese Buddhists interpreted the past of Chinese Buddhism beyond the traditional sectarian narrative and understood the causality behind historical changes from a ‘modern’ Buddhist perspective. This historiographical approach toward Buddhism not only demonstrates the new paradigm of the formation of Buddhist knowledge in practice and in discourse, but also contextualises the tension between the ‘theological truth’ and ‘historical truth’ in modern Buddhist scholarship. The inherent paradox of ‘evolution’ and ‘decline’ in Taixu’s narrative also inspires reflections on the dominant model of ‘revival’ in current studies of modern Chinese Buddhism, which is deeply influenced by the modern presupposition of revolution and Buddhist modernists’ self-construction.
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