Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks

Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks


We are pleased to announce the open access release of Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks, edited by Cluster 1.1 leader Prof. Jinhua Chen, and Cluster 3.2 leader Prof. Kai Sheng, published by MDPI.


Book details:
Jinhua Chen and Kai Sheng, eds. Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks. MDPI, forthcoming 2024. (This book is a reprint of the Special Issue Social Life History of Chinese Buddhist Monks that was published in Religions).

Download special issue flyer

About the special issue:

For long monastic communities in the history of Chinese Buddhism had been labelled as “elitist” or a distinct social group, but in fact, the identities and social life of Buddhist monks in Chinese historical records are much more complex and diverse. Accordingly, Buddhist monks’ relations and interactions with the multi-layered Chinese cultural life and other social communities in different periods require more nuanced academic investigation. From a perspective of “the social life of the monk masses in China”, we need to reevaluate the social landscape and dynamics of Chinese monastic communities and explore more possibilities in understanding Chinese Buddhist “monasticism”. We need to rethink the seemingly over-studied questions such as “Is Buddhism systematically sinicised as a social institution?”, “how does Chinese Buddhism spread socially?”, “how to understand the religiosity in Chinese monks’ daily life experience?” with more case analyses and discussions in depth. Here, “Chinese monk masses” and “social life history” will be our main focuses. We wish to use new methods, texts and archeological evidence to challenge extant dichotomies in interpreting the social life of the monk masses in China, such as the doctrinal vs. the popular, localization vs. globalization, or secularisation vs. consecration.

In this context, this special issue aims to recruit exciting original papers about all possible historical periods, geographic regions and subjects salient to our focus. We call for research that problematise existing opinions and impressions on Chinese Buddhist monastic communities and look at the monk masses as innately multivariant and socially mobile. Topics about Chinese monks’ religious life, institutional life, political life, culture life, material life, ritualistic life, monastic economics, monastic spaces and social life, etc. are all welcome. We particularly encourage research with an interdisciplinary spirit and liaising existing material with new theoretical developments in other academic fields to establish new understandings, including sociology, anthropology, religious studies, philosophy and art history.


About the special issue guest editors:

Jinhua Chen is Professor of East Asian intellectual history (particularly religions) at the University of British Columbia, where he also served as the Canada Research Chair in East Asian Buddhism (2001-2011). He additionally held short-term teaching positions at other universities including the University of Virginia (2000-2001), the University of Tokyo (2003-04), and Stanford University (2012). He is a Royal Society of Canada (RSC) Fellow (2020) and recipient of multiple research grants and fellowships from different sources including Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program, Killam Foundation, Peter Wall Institute for the Advanced Studies, Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai [BDK]), Japan Society for the Promotion of Social Sciences (JSPS), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max Plank Institute, the Academy of Korean Studies, and the National Humanities Center (USA). He has engaged in research projects related to East Asian state-church relationships, monastic (hagio/)biographical literature, Buddhist sacred sites, relic veneration, Buddhism and technological innovation in medieval China, and Buddhist translations. In addition to publishing five monographs, including (1). Making and Remaking History (Tokyo, 1999), (2). Monks and Monarchs, Kinship and Kingship (Kyoto, 2002), (3). Philosopher, Practitioner, Politician: The Many Lives of Fazang [643-712] (Leiden, 2007), 4. Legend and Legitimation: The Formation of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism (Brussels, 2009), and (5). Crossfire: Shingon-Tendai strife as seen in two twelfth-century polemics (Tokyo, 2010), he has also co-edited five books. He is also the author of over fifty book chapters and journal articles, with major academic journals such as Asia Major,  Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African StudiesHarvard Journal of Asiatic Studies,  History of Religions,  Journal AsiatiqueJournal of Asian HistoryJournal of Chinese ReligionsJournal of the American Oriental SocietyJournal of the International Association of Buddhist StudiesJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society, and T’oung P’ao: Revue internationale de sinologie. Several of his forthcoming books include one on medieval Chinese monastic warfare, another on Buddhism and Daoism’s politico-economical roles in early eighth century, and finally an annotated English translation (with an extended Introduction) of the complete works of the 9-10th century Korean literary luminary Choe Chiwon 崔致遠.


Ven. Dr. Sheng Kai is a Professor in the Philosophy Department of Tsinghua University, the Executive director of the Buddhist Association of China, and a Graduate Teacher of Buddhist Academy of Putuo Mount, Zhejiang Province. In 2008, he was the Associate professor of Philosophy Department of Nanjing University. He studied in the Buddhist Academy of China, Nanjing University, attained MPhil (Nanjing University) in 2002, PhD (Nanjing University) in 2005, and finished Postdoctoral study in Tsinghua University in 2007. He is the author of following books: (1.) The Buddhist Ritual of China, (2) Study on the Confessional Ritual of Chinese Buddhism, (3) The Buddhist Confessional Thought, (4) Study on the School of Mahayana-samuparigraha-sastra. He specializes in Buddhist Confession, Buddhist Pure Land Thought, Yogacara Buddism and Tathagatagarbha Buddhism.