“Master Hongyi and Hangzhou”, a Conversation with Professor Raoul Birnbaum, Part. 1

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Center for Buddhist Studies is glad to post an interview that we conducted with Professor Raoul Birnbaum, Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research has concentrated on three great themes in the history of Chinese Buddhist life: the major deity cults, visions of the landscape intertwined with religion, and close examination of dimensions of the lives of individuals within this religious field, including the twentieth-century artist-monk Hongyi 弘一. In a comparative mode, he also has been engaged in studies of the many worlds and representations of St. Francis, the thirteenth-century Italian, in his Umbrian homeland.

The interview falls into two parts.

Part 1: Master Hongyi and Hangzhou

This part of the interview deals with the celebrated artist Li Shutong 李叔同 (1880-1942) and his life in Hangzhou. Already a mature and established man of the world, within six years Li Shutong had completely overturned his life to become a Buddhist monk (renamed Hongyi), receiving full ordination at Hangzhou’s Lingyin Monastery in 1918. This talk explores these pivotal early years in Hangzhou, before Hongyi became widely known as one of the great Buddhist masters of the twentieth century. Underneath complex layers of myth and romantic figuring, can we see a real person within this tale of transformation?

Please click the link to watch Part. 2  Master Hongyi and St. Francis of Assisi