Fang Xin

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rhum, Michael R.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Buddhism--China--History; China--History--Cultural Revolution; 1966-1976


The primary purpose of this thesis is to study the development of Buddhism in China before and after the Cultural Revolution. This subject is approached through three perspectives: (1) religious life in the village; (2) the monastic system; and (3) the role of lay Buddhists. The village religious form is composed of folk religion. It has a diversity of deities, including Buddhist deities. This folk religion influences all other kinds of religious forms. It represents people's general attitudes towards religion. Its major characteristic is the worldly oriented divine system that emphasizes the people's practical needs. Deities can play an important role in people's lives only if they have been endowed with practical functions. Buddhist monasteries form an independent economic entity. Monks tend to lead a seclusive lifestyle. Their relationship with local communities is relatively loose. By comparison with folk religion, Buddhism usually suffers more from religious persecution and changes more rapidly. This is demonstrated in the case of the Cultural Revolution when Buddhist religious life was almost brought to an end. Lay Buddhists are a special group that formerly was composed of gentry and bureaucrats. They used to be a link between monasteries and the state. However, they have experienced dramatic changes during the period covered in this study. They have lost the prestigious social status they used to have. As a result, their social influence is decreasing at a fast pace. In the meantime, lay Buddhists as a special social group are also decreasing rapidly. In general, Buddhism changed dramatically before and after the Cultural Revolution. However, there is a difference in terms of the extent it has been affected. Village religious life is the most resistant religious form. By comparison, monastic life is more likely to change. Lay Buddhists, however, have changed even more dramatically. In fact, this special social group is starting to disappear.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [112]-117).


117 pages




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