Organized Panel Session
Over the last forty years, the Taiwanese Han-Buddhist order Fo Guang Shan 佛光山 has emerged as a major Buddhist player on the global stage. Today we can find the order’s temples dispersed all over the world: in Asia, in Australia, in Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Fo Guang Shan’s impressive rise from a single, newly founded monastery in the backwaters of southern Taiwan in the middle of the last century to a transnational Buddhist organization that operates on a global scale is linked to post-1960s dynamics of Chinese (Taiwanese, Southeast Asian Chinese, Hong Kongese and PRC) migration and diaspora building. Fo Guang Shan maintains a multitude of linkages with the host society that cross ethnic and cultural boundaries on many levels. Based on multi-sited fieldwork in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Africa, the USA, the PRC and Germany, this study aims to shed light on these complex set of cross-cultural dynamics that link the overseas temples to their respective host societies. I contend that Fo Guang Shan’s overseas temples can be understood as a transnational religious space. While the Fo Guang Shan monastics and lay mandarin speakers are positioned at the center of this space, we find a diverse set of actors at its fringes. These include second and third generation migrants of Chinese origin, non-Chinese locals from other Asian countries (e.g., Indian South Africans in South Africa and Vietnamese Americans in the US), as well as local non-Chinese speaking members (Chinese and non-Chinese) of the order’s lay association.