China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Recently, scholars have begun to scrutinize how family, familial life, and familial discourses have deeply shaped Buddhism throughout history (Clarke 2013). Building on previous scholarship emphasizing Buddhism’s reconciliation with Confucian patriarchalism, this panel aims to explore various other context-related materializations of monastic-familial relationship in Chinese history. In particular, we approach this relationship along two analytical lines. First, Nikita Kuzmin and Gilbert Chen draw on legal materials to examine how external forces shaped the contours of monastic-familial interactions. Kuzmin uses twelfth-century Tangut law codes to analyze how government regulations attempted to organize monastic community along familial lines and how monastics adapted to this state-imposed familial structure. Chen, using nineteenth-century legal cases, examines how continued interaction between monks and their natal families transformed Buddhism into a family-friendly institution at the local level, notwithstanding the accompanying anxieties about disputes surrounding temple property. Secondly, Paul Katz and Wei Wu analyze the work of Taixu, a prominent Republican-era reformist monk, to investigate how Buddhist communities re-formulated monastic-familial relationship in the face of modernity. Katz traces how Taixu made Buddhist weddings a cornerstone of his Buddhist reform project by combining Confucian values and Buddhist teachings, which, despite sparking controversies, became increasingly popular among lay Buddhists. Wu unveils the political agenda underpinning Taixu’s promotion of the “modern Buddhist family,” showing how Taixu emphasized the importance of Buddhism in cementing family-state ties to legitimize Buddhism in the process of Chinese nation-state building. In sum, this panel seeks to place family relations at the center of Chinese Buddhist history.