Buddhist Textual Communities

In collaboration with a massive international collaboration on East Asian Buddhism and religion hosted at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and funded by Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and other organizations, the Center for Buddhist Studies has become a formal partner in the project “From the Ground Up: East Asian Buddhism and Religions.”

The Center Director Jiang Wu will lead Cluster 1.5 “Extended Textual Communities” during the years of 2019-2022.


Cluster 1.5 Extended “Textual Communities”

Cluster Leader: Jiang Wu

Site: Hangzhou, China and area

Dates: June 5-14, 2020 (Conference June 5-7)

Languages: English, Chinese and Classical Chinese. Minimum: English. Translation of key information will be provided.


Cluster 1.5 (Extended “Textual Communities”) investigates the ways in which reading and writing the religious texts in East Asia structured and defined communities of real or imagined readers, and how the economic and technological dimensions of the production of texts affected and even created communities and institutions. In recent years, more scholarly attention has been given to the history of the Chinese book in which religious materials, especially the Chinese Buddhist canon, are an important component. (See for example, Cynthia Brokwa, Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods; Jiang Wu and Lucille Chia, Spreading Buddha’s Word in East Asia: The Formation and Transformation of the Chinese Buddhist Canon.) Although progress has been made, many more aspects of religious texts are not known in terms of its relationship to the community and the advancement of the printing technology. There is a great need to document sites of production – e.g. libraries, print shops, etc.

This cluster therefore aims to conduct field works in Hangzhou, Taiwan, and Kyoto to collect information and records related to the production and circulation of religious texts, especially Buddhist texts, in East Asia. Priority will be given to the material aspect of religious printing in public and private collections of printed rare sources and to the production sites of these sources. Training opportunities will be provided to participants for documenting metadata of related sources. In summer 2020, we plan to start this cluster project in Hangzhou from June 2-12 in conjunction with the Hangzhou Buddhist Culture Project organized by the Center for Buddhist Studies and Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. As part of the field survey, participants will have the opportunity to present and join a conference on “Buddhist Scriptures, Textual Communities, and the Jiangnan Society from the Song to the Qing” 佛教經典, 文字社群,與江南社會:宋至清 held from June 5 and 7 and co-hosted by Zhejiang University and the University of Arizona.

We chose Hangzhou as the starting point because Hangzhou has been a center for the Chinese printing industry since the Wuyue 吳越Kingdom. Religious printing, especially the printing of the Buddhist canon, was well-developed. Some of the sites and relics can be still traced and surveyed for research. Jingshan Monastery 徑山寺, for example, was not only a Chan institution but also the center of printing, especially for the carving of Jingshan Canon 徑山藏 or Jiaxing canon 嘉興藏 because the canon was later printed in the neighboring Jiaxing country. Also in Hangzhou, Puning Canon 普寧藏 was created and sponsored by the White Cloud sect 白雲宗 in the Yuan which has been studied by Barend ter Haar. Close to Hangzhou, Sixi Canon 思溪藏 was created in Huzhou 湖州in the Song and later transported to Japan. The famed Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺 is also renowned for keeping a rich library collection of several editions of the Buddhist canon and some precious prints from early periods. Today, Lingyin Monastery is also a center of Buddhist bibliographical research. Not only is the temple the headquarters of Chinese Buddhist Library Alliance, it also created a new cataloging system widely adopted in Chinese Buddhist libraries. Its museum nowadays preserves quite a few historical instruments for carving woodblocks and printing. In late imperial China, numerous print shops affiliated with Buddhist monasteries were prolific producers of Buddhist scriptures and popular religious tracts such as “precious volumes 寶卷.” Among them, Manao Print Shop 瑪瑙經坊affiliated with Manao Temple 瑪瑙寺 and Huikong Print Shop 慧空經坊 affiliated with Zhaoqing Temple 昭慶寺 were the two most famous ones.

Hangzhou was also a place of Daoism since the time of the Daoist leader Ge Hong 葛洪. Baopu Daoist Cloister抱扑道院and Fuxing Monastery福星觀 are still popular nowadays. In addition, numerous religious institutions of popular religions such as City God Temple 城隍廟, Confucius Temple 孔廟, Ziyang Chapel 紫陽庵clustered in the Wushan 吴山area. All of these sites were also producers and exchange hubs of religious materials. Because of the rapid urbanization and rezoning of the Hangzhou area, all these sites and their related relics are in urgent need of documentation and digitization. Many of the sites still preserve steles, prints, rubbings, printing tools without knowing their significance for studying the history of religious printing. Our cluster will collect data from these sites to facilitate future research.

Expected cost per participant (not including airfare): $1395 CAD – lodging, meals, transportation, incidentals for 10 days