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Buddhist cyber-activities and state-led nationalism: Interpreting contexts and modalities of online Buddhist ritual practice

When:Mo 24-03-2014 16:00 - 17:30
Where:Room 253, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Buddhist cyber-activities and state-led nationalism: Interpreting contexts and modalities of online Buddhist ritual practice

Dr. Stefania Travagnin (University of Groningen)

Since the Chinese Communist Party altered its religion policies in the 1980s, bottom-up initiatives have renovated old Buddhist temples, reinstated traditional community rituals, and reaffirmed the social role of Buddhist communities. At the same time, the regime aims to channel Buddhism’s resuscitation through ideology of state-led nationalism, characterized by the patriotic slogan ‘love one’s country and love one’s religion’ (aiguo aijiao). But shaping popular activism has become increasingly challenging in the twenty-first century, as Buddhist authorities and organizations have expanded their media presence through an outpouring of blogs, websites, TV stations, and TV programs.

One example is the Online Buddha Hall (zaixian fotang) of Nanputuo Monastery, one of the most important and wealthiest Buddhist sites in the entire country. In this Buddhist cyberspace, believers perform ritual practices such as coping sutras, reciting liturgies, lighting candles and making offerings. To what extent do Buddhist practices subvert, complement, or strengthen the CCP’s patriotic agenda?

This paper contextualizes these popular online Buddhist ritual practice within the party-state’s nationalist ideology (aiguo aijiao), analyzes its coexistence with the political ideas in force, and questions the degree to which it serves the aims of the CCP.