The "Late-Ming Beats" and the Monastic Accommodation in the Early 17th Century Hangzhou
Qi, Guanxiong (author)
Yu, Jimmy (professor directing thesis)
Cuevas, Bryan J., 1967- (committee member)
Hellweg, Joseph (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Arts and Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of Religion (degree granting department)
This study is about the formation of elite lay Buddhist societies in late 16th-century and early 17th century Hangzhou. In this era, many classically trained Confucian scholars were not only philosophically inclined to Buddhist doctrines but also financially supportive of monastic construction projects in remote mountains as a deliberate attempt to create an ideal site for their exclusive enjoyment. I heuristically call these Confucian scholars the "Late-Ming Beats"—they were usually either politically frustrated officials or failed civil service examinees. They fantasized about living a reclusive life, retired from politics at a young age, regularly visited and patronized Buddhist monasteries, befriended the monastics, funded the constructions and renovations of the monastic buildings, and practiced meditation under their favorite Buddhist masters. One may entertain the idea that the foundation of Buddhist societies in the late Ming was an analog to the Beat Generation of the last 1950s' in the United States. Despite the different socio-historical contexts, what connects these two social phenomena are their counterreaction against repressive societal norms in which Buddhism became the alterity. The Buddhist society fellows were mostly politically frustrated scholar-officials and continuously failed civil service examinees. Many deliberately forfeited their future political careers due to factionalism and partisanship in officialdom. I use Tu Long 屠隆 (1542-1605) as an example to examine his gradual disenchantment with politics and increasing interest in religious practices. What Buddhism signified was a "spritual" escape from the profanity and meaninglessness of politics. In this study, I give historical details about the formation of lay Buddhist communities and the monastic responses to these laities' presence. I focus on three elite societies—the Society of Fragrant Adornment, the Society of Tranquility, the Society of Vegetable and Bamboo Shoot. The establishment of these societies helped the Late-Ming Beats to conceive an elitist lay Buddhist identity. They believed the literati are the most authentic Buddhists who appreciate the essence of Buddhism and combine Buddhist doctrines with Confucian teachings. I focus on their cultural and financial patronage to the monastery, the society's monthly gathering program and activities, and their literary style and achievement. Their support and furnishing of cultural artifacts in monastic institutions led to the flourishing of Buddhism in the Hanzhou region. Through their literary productions on local monasteries, their historical treatises, and their compilations of gazetteers, the literati constructed their own version of Buddhism. Then, we shift away from the literati construction of Buddhism to the monastic accommodations to their activities. I focus on the guesthouse, tearoom, ritual, and meditation rooms exclusively created for the literati's enjoyment in the monastery—in other words, the physicality of literati's "places of socio-leisure." By comparing earlier canonized monastic codes with later renditions of these codes that circulated in the early 17th century Hangzhou, I identify the emergence of several monastic "hospitality" office posts—such as special chef for the guest and the charity workers. These findings suggest an increase in interaction between the monastic and the elite laity. Catered to attracting more literati, the powerful monasteries in the mountains also expanded their institutional reach by building sub-temples (xiayuan 下院) or branch temples (ziyuan 子院) in the city. For these monasteries in remote areas, the operation of sub-temple and branches overcame their geographical disadvantages. Finally, through this microhistory of Buddhism in the Hangzhou region, I wish to complicate existing scholarship of Buddhism in the late imperial era by suggesting that the "late-Ming Buddhist revival" was a co-creation of the literati's imagination of the Buddhist monastery as an otherworldly place of leisure and the monastic institutional accommodation to their imagined space. In this sense, the flourishing of Buddhist monasticism was predicated on the fantasies of elite lay Buddhist patrons. I argue that it is essential to understand the historical development of Buddhism from both external and internal contingencies of patrons and monastic institutions.
Beat Generation, Buddhism, Buddhist history, Chinese Buddhism, Cultural History, Ming History
March 25, 2022.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jimmy Yu, Professor Directing Thesis; Bryan Cuevas, Committee Member; Joseph Hellweg, Committee Member.
Florida State University