2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 378

[ China and Inner Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Chinese Buddhist Perspectives on Education: Transmission of Tradition and the Challenges of the Modernizing State

Organizer: Stefania Travagnin, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Chair: Andre Laliberte, University of Ottawa, Canada

Discussants: Stefania Travagnin, University of Groningen, Netherlands; Andre Laliberte, University of Ottawa, Canada

The field of modern Chinese studies counts a growing interdisciplinary and cross-area scholarship that has shed new light on the role of religion in the social and political contexts. This panel aims at exploring different levels of interaction between Chinese governments and Buddhist institutions in the education sector. Papers discuss issues such as the nature of the education projects behind the anti-religious movements in China; parallels and relations between the reforms of monastic education (from early twentieth-century China to Taiwan today) and the political agenda of the Ministry of Education and other governmental offices; the intervention of Buddhist groups in social welfare through the establishment of schools and alternative educational programs; the effect of Christian missionaries in reshaping education models for Buddhism. The panel addresses these research questions in a diachronic perspective and looks at continuities and shift of reform policies between the late Qing period, the Republican Era, as well as contemporary PRC and ROC in Taiwan. It also investigates contemporary cross-strait relations through the analysis of the Buddhist involvement in education, and examines “parallel” education model run by Buddhist clerics in contemporary Tibet. The presenters, who come from different academic fields and regions, adopt diverse types of primary sources and methodological approaches. Chair and discussants of the panel are a political scientist and a historian of Chinese religions. This double perspective is meant to provide an interdisciplinary perspective in opening and leading a final engaging discussion with the audience.

The Movement of Founding Schools with Property from Buddhist Temples in Yangtze Delta of China and the Modernizing of Education (1898-1949)
Nan Ouyang, University of Arizona, USA

During Late Qing and Early Republic of China, the Buddhist communities suffered a series of anti-religion movements. Among them, the most influential one is called Miaochanxingxue (Founding Modern Schools with Property from Buddhist Temples). This movement lasted from 1898 to 1949, mainly with means like dispossessing monastic houses and confiscating Buddhists’ self-supporting lands. This paper is focused on the detailed spatial and temporal process of the movement and tries to provide a comprehensive picture of such an event in certain given region —Yangtze Delta— with four facets. First of all, from a diachronic perspective, the full tide and ebbs of this movement are presented with quantitative data extracted from various historical documents. Secondly, the spatial distribution of the newly-founded schools can be rendered in maps. By doing so, the geographical differences of this movement can be further addressed to, for which the reasons are boiled down to the discrepancy of physical geography and both economic and cultural regional diversity. Thirdly, from a perspective of local society, the social background of those school-founders and other agents are taken into consideration. It is revealed that three intertwined social forces had exerted their influences on the trend of this movement evidently: a leading role of the local elites, gradual engagement of governments and the passive reaction of Buddhist entities. Lastly, the quality of the modernized local education and its relation with China’s early modernization is discussed.

The Rise and Demise of Quanzhou Kaiyuan’s School for Orphans (1925 to 2003)
Brian J. Nichols, Mount Royal University, Canada

Education was a key element in the revitalization of Chinese Buddhism during the Republican Period. While Buddhist academies (foxue yuan) were central to the efforts of progressives like Taixu, schools for orphans were an important part of the ministry of more traditional monks such as Yuanying (1878–1953) and Zhuandao (1872-1943). This paper examines a school for orphans established by Yuanying and Zhuandao at Quanzhou Kaiyuan Monastery in their home province of Fujian. The school for orphans opened in 1925 funded by a network of transnational donors; it was a key feature of Quanzhou Kaiyuan’s Republican Period revival.Some of the questions engaged include: In what ways was this a Buddhist charity? What, if anything, was Buddhist about the curriculum? To what extent were the ideals behind this charity informed by Buddhism or by other influences? In what ways was it a response to threats and dislocations that accompanied modernity? With each political change, from the founding of the school to its final closure in 2003, there were significant changes in the relationship between the school and its supporting monastery. The trend, in general, was to disassociate the school from monastic control in an effort to secularize education. The second part of this paper will trace these changes and their impact on the school.

The Political Accommodations of the Minnan Buddhist Institute: Theories and Practices of jiaoyu in a Sangha Context
Stefania Travagnin, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Education reforms have played a key role in the turning points of Chinese history. Slogans like “Save the Country through Education” (jiaoyu jiuguo) became well-known when the first Republic succeeded the Empire, at the dawn of the Mao era, and with Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. In tandem with her political reinventions, China has engaged in educational reforms, and the parallel reconstructions of Chinese Buddhism have also included important reforms of the monastic education system. This paper will discuss the history of the Minnan Buddhist Institute (Minnan Foxueyuan) in Xiamen, with the premise that education reforms implemented in Buddhist seminaries echoed contemporary reforms in secular schooling, and that the adoption of the new concept jiaoyu (education) affected modern education projects for Buddhism. This research will focus on the conversations between monks and the Ministry of Education during the planning of the Buddhist Institute’s curriculum, and look at the reasons behind and the modalities of intervention by the Chinese government in the definition of the new seng jiaoyu (Monastic Education). This paper will look in particular at two moments of the history of the Minnan Buddhist Institute, the foundation years (1927-1930) and the re-opening in 1985, and will thus question different forms of government intervention in setting the curricula for monks and nuns. The Minnan Buddhist Institute is also a perfect case-study of Buddhist cross-strait relations. The final part of the paper will map the political background and outcomes of the mutual exchanges between Minnan and important Buddhist seminaries in Taiwan.

Buddhism and education in contemporary China: State commitments, local governments’ fiscal constraints and temple zhuxue
Andre Laliberte, University of Ottawa, Canada

Chinese Buddhist involvement in education had a long history that came to an abrupt end in 1949 after directives for religious affairs and legislation on education prevented Buddhist institutions from any involvement with the exception of monastic education for the management of temples. Since the beginning of the reform policy, however, fundamental changes in the financing of basic social services’ delivery such as education in primary schools and the inabilities of many local governments in meeting their responsibilities have presented innovative Buddhist monks with new opportunities to contribute to education in an important way, in the spirit of the official discourse for Buddhists according to which “Culture builds the stage and the economy performs” (wenhua datai, jingji changxi). Thanks to support from donors in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and increasingly, from prosperous regions such as Shanghai and Xiamen as well, Buddhist monks are supporting charities helping children to gain access to basic education in remote area and in zones affected by national disasters. Although these activities, known as zhuxue, develop in the context of a secular education system, they reinforce the positive impression about the contribution of Buddhists to Chinese contemporary society. My paper will map out the main networks being established or being revived between donors and recipients of the zhuxue, situating them in comparison with similar activities undertaken by other religions as well as secular associations. The findings presented in this paper results from the analysis of programs to help students launched by Buddhist temples across China.

Schools, Lamas and Pupils in Contemporary China’s Tibet
Marijo Demers, University of Ottawa, Canada

the post-Mao era, some highly regarded Tibetan monks (lamas and tulkus) began to establish private schools throughout the Tibetan-populated areas lying outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), mainly in Kham and Amdo (portions of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu). Although these educative projects were initiated by religious leaders coming from different branches of Tibetan Buddhism, the proposed paper will demonstrate how they shared common foundations: i) schooling children from poor families, often from nomadic communities; ii) building school premises near the local monastery, in a familiar setting; iii) maintaining low tuition fees by attracting funding from China, Taiwan or overseas sponsors; iv) following the national curriculum, while infusing Buddhist notions and elements of Tibetan culture; v) drawing pupils who – despite compulsory schooling in PRC – would probably not have been sitting in class due to a variety of reasons (gender, workload, distances, tuition fees, distrust towards authorities). The paper submitted – drawing on original data from two fieldworks in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), Gansu – will also shed light on the drawbacks and limitations of this «parallel» education model, run by Buddhist clerics. In the longer run, these schools’ durability in contemporary China depends on the State’s will and there are increasingly met with suspicious eye by CCP because they do not promote secular values and might encourage «splittist» activities. Following the events of 2008 in Tibetan areas, what is the future of this form of schooling? Why do Tibetan parents maintain a preference for a buddhist-oriented education?