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Pointing at the Moon: Yinshun, Shengyan and Buddhist-Christian Rivalry in 1960s Taiwan

Wanneer:ma 28-04-2014 16:00 - 17:30
Waar:Room 253, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Pointing at the Moon: Yinshun, Shengyan and Buddhist-Christian Rivalry in 1960s Taiwan

Dr. Scott Pacey (University of Manchester, UK)

The 1960s was a period of dramatic transformation in the world of Chinese religion. On the one hand, it saw the onset of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in the People’s Republic of China, when public religious activity ceased. In Taiwan, which the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) retained at the conclusion of China’s civil war in 1949, religious life continued in a context of authoritarian rule and martial law. In the 1950s and 1960s, the island also witnessed a period of rapid Christian growth, as Christians and Buddhists competed for adherents and intellectual legitimacy.

This paper will consider the responses of two Buddhist monastics, Yinshun (1906-2005) and Shengyan (1930-2009), to the Christian criticism that Buddhism was superstitious and unmodern. In particular, it will show that in debates with Christians on key concepts such as God and nirvana, Yinshun and Shengyan used Western academic scholarship on the history of religions in an effort to counter this claim. By focusing on essays and books published during the period, the paper will show that their responses embodied modernist trends within Chinese Buddhism that had been on-going since the republican era in mainland China (1911-1949). Finally, the paper will consider the lasting effects of Buddhist-Christian engagement during the 1960s in light of subsequent religious developments in Taiwan.