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Guang, Kuan (2010) Wutai Shan During the Ming Dynasty. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00033749

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Abstract

Historians of Ming period Chinese Buddhism have tended in the past to concentrate on the monastic Buddhism of the economically dominant Lower Yangzi, or on the Buddhism of the capital, Beijing. By contrast this thesis investigates the management of monastic establishments on Wutai Shan during the Ming dynasty. A review of Wutai Shan Buddhist history and the general characteristics of Ming Buddhism is provided as essential background for understanding the conclusions of the research. By the 15th-16th centuries Indian Buddhist influence on Wutai Shan had a long established history. There is little awareness, however, that Wutai Shan was still attracting Indian Buddhist visitors as late as this period. This thesis focuses on the activities of two great Indian Buddhist masters who came to Wutai Shan. Their visits reveal that although it had weakened as a result of the decline of Buddhism in India, the bond between Indian Buddhism and Wutai Shan continued to exist during this period. Following these two great masters other South Asian Buddhists came to this holy mountain throughout the Ming period. In contrast to these visitors from "the west", in this period we hardly see any Japanese and Korean Buddhist pilgrims on Wutai Shan. Many Wutai Shan monk officials are mentioned in inscriptions in regard to various events. Through a careful study of the monk official system on Wutai Shan we conclude that the power of Ming Wutai Shan monk officials was very limited. This was due to the unique character of Wutai Shan, where many celebrated monks were given honorific titles which co-existed with the Buddhist offices. This created overlaps in jurisdiction which frequently resulted in no one having the authority to take charge. Elsewhere, however, the Ming monk official system was not merely honorific. In most areas the system still functioned, and we use the Nanjing monk official system as example to prove this. Many Buddhologists believe that four eminent monks in late Ming China played important roles in revitalising Chinese Buddhism. Among these, three had been to Wutai Shan. In this research we compare the monastic reforms led by two of these monks with those on Wutai Shan in the late Ming. As one of the most important sacred Buddhist sites, Wutai Shan gained considerable support from the Ming imperial family. Some members had political motives but most acted out of genuine concern for the flourishing of Buddhism. As compared with both previous dynasties and with the later Qing dynasty, relatively more Ming imperial support came from the members of imperial family's personal purse than from state funds, reflecting the weakened condition of imperial power under the Ming. In contrast to the well-documented imperial patrons there are hardly any records relating to lay patrons of Wutai Shan, and we analyse reasons behind this. All these aspects of Wutai Shan Buddhism reveal a Ming Buddhist culture significantly different from that which has occupied scholarly attention so far.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00033749
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:19
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/33749

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