A Different Buddhist Revival: The Promotion of Vinaya (jielü 戒律) in Republican China

Daniela Campo


The aim of this exploratory study is to provide an outline of the Vinaya renewal in China in the first half of the twentieth century, and to point to its meanings and effects in the context of the Buddhist revival of the Republican period. Based on a preliminary investigation of monastic codes compiled by four influential Buddhist leaders in the 1930s and 1940s, my paper draws attention to their endeavor to promote Chinese monastic discipline in practice and in discourse. I argue that, during the Republican period, Chinese Vinaya represented the benchmark for both molding religious regeneration and setting the limit for Buddhist institutional innovation. The promotion of Vinaya was a long-standing, indigenous, pattern for the revitalization of the Buddhist tradition, and it also played a fundamental role in the modern evolution of Chinese Buddhism by helping the monastic community strengthen its religious authority and political legitimation. I hope to show that a deeper analysis of this phenomenon may in the future help balance current visions on Chinese modernism, dominated by Western categories, theories and dichotomies related to modernity and secularism.


Vinaya renewal; Buddhist revival; monastic discipline; Chinese Buddhism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1251847


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