Research on Buddhism policy in Ming Dynasty

ZHANG Dewei1

(1.Sun Yat-Sen University)

【Abstract】The formulation of Buddhism policy in the Ming Dynasty was part of the “state-building” in the early Ming Dynasty. Buddhism can help the emperors to enrich their virtue, which is the premise that it can be legalized in this empire with neo-Confucianism as its ideology. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the emperors had no lack of personal interest in Buddhism, but they had more restrictions on it since they make their policies mainly based on utilitarianism and focused on national interests. The detailed implementation of these policies has achieved varying degrees of success. Moreover, their effects are overlapping and enlarging, which seriously weakened the autonomy of Buddhism in system, economy, and ideology, and ultimately had a profound impact on the development of Buddhism in the Ming Dynasty and thereafter.

【Keywords】 Ming Dynasty; Buddhism; policy; state building; utilitarianism; autonomy;

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    [28]. (28) Frederick W. Mote pointed out that Zhu Yuanzhang had been committed to the empire’s consolidation and stabilization from 1371 to 1380. The year 1380 was a year of transition and reorganization, during which the prime minister was abolished by the case of Hu Weiyong, and all power was concentrated in the hands of the emperor. The time between 1383 and 1392 was the year of intensified surveillance and terror. [America] Mote, F. et al. The Cambridge History of China. Zhang, S. (trans.) Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2 (1992).

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    [40]. (40) 释鉴稽古略续集. Vol. 2, 931c; 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 2, 223. For a detailed discussion of monks responsible for assets and taxes, please refer to [Japan]

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    [46]. (46) Ren, Y. The Journal of Humanities (人文杂志), (4): 54 (2008). According to the statistics of Bamin Tongzhi (八闽通志), 26 temples in Fu’an County and 65 temples in Jian’an County, Fujian Province were merged.

    [47]. (47) (Jia Jing) Gu Su Zhi (姑苏志). Vol. 29–30, 414–474.

    [48]. (48) (Chong Zhen) Refer to Song Jiang Fu Zhi (松江府志). Vol. 50–52. Even so, there were still 32 temples that had not been merged.

    [49]. (49) (Wanli) Hang Zhou Fu Zhi (杭州府志). Vol. 97–100.

    [50]. (50) (Zheng Tong) Da Ming Fu Zhi (大名府志). Vol. 4, 704a.

    [51]. (51) Refer to (Qianlong) Zheng Ding Fu Zhi (正定府志), Vol. 9; (Kangxi) Bao Ding Fu Zhi (保定府志), Vol. 29; (Wanli) Tai Yuan Fu Zhi (太原府志), Vol. 24.

    [52]. (52) For example, volume 28–32 of (Qianlong) Hang Zhou Fu Zhi shows that only 12 temples have been merged and 42 temples have been preserved, which is in contrast to the records of (Kangxi) Hang Zhou Fu Zhi. Xuanmiao Temple in Shaoxing is another example. According to (Kangxi) Sheng Xian Zhi (嵊县志) volume 6, 27b, it was merged in the years of Hongwu, but there was no relevant record in government records in 1763.

    [53]. (53) Chün-fang Yü agreed with Japanese scholars’ estimation that the state government near the capital had implemented the policy of controlling the number of temples in Hongwu for only a few years. In fact, the evidence shows that the merger is irreversible for most temples. Chün-fang Yü, The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the Late Ming Synthesis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981, p.146.

    [54]. (54) Refer to (Qianlong) Hu Zhou Fu Zhi (湖州府志). Vol. 9–10, (Kangxi) Su Zhou Fu Zhi (苏州府志). Vol. 38–40 and (Qianlong) Hang Zhou Fu Zhi (杭州府志). Vol. 28–32. The construction of temples in Suzhou during the Hongwu period was much less than that in Hangzhou and Huzhou, which may have been offset by the larger number during the Yongle period.

    [55]. (55) Qian, G. 吴都文粹续集. Vol. 30, 4b–5a.

    [56]. (56) He, X. Studies in World Religions (世界宗教研究), (1): 31 (2004).

    [57]. (57) 明英宗实录. Vol. 206, 4422.

    [58]. (58) The certificate began in the middle Tang Dynasty. For the certificates in the Southern Song Dynasty and the Jin Dynasty, refer to Wang, Z.A Study of Buddhist System Culture in South Song Dynasty (南宋佛教制度文化研究). Beijing: The Commercial Press, 108–132 (2012).

    [59]. (59) For the price of certificate in the Ming Dynasty, refer to He, X. Studies in World Religions (世界宗教研究), (1): 33–34 (2004); He, X. Nankai Journal (南开学报), (5) (2005).

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    [61]. (61) For recovering lost land property and illegally occupying others’ land, refer to Bai, W. Qinghai Social Sciences (青海社会科学), (6): 76 (1987).

    [62]. (62) These two figures come from Bai, W. Qinghai Social Sciences (青海社会科学), (6): 77 (1987). For the land property of Dahuguo Renwang Temple, please refer to [Japan]

    [63]. (63) Bai, W. Qinghai Social Sciences (青海社会科学), (6): 77 (1987).

    [64]. (64) Liang, F. 中国历代户口、田地、田赋统计. Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 442 (2008). It is worth noting that a different number was provided in Li, G. & Zhou, Z. Thinking (思想战线), (5): 85 (1986). According to historical records, Dachengtian Husheng Temple was granted 162,000 qing in 1330 and 1347 respectively. Liang Fangzhong believed that they were the same. For the two grants of field, please refer to 元史. Vol. 34, 756 and Vol. 41, 879.

    [65]. (65) This is the general attitude of the government, but there are exceptions. For examples of the Buddhist temples recovering lost land property with the help of the government, please refer to 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 2, 216.

    [66]. (66) This land was granted to Zuyuan (Tianquan) (1389–1449) by Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming Dynasty (1426–1435). See S, M. in 卍新纂大日本续藏经. Tokyo: Kokusho Kankohkai, No.1524, Vol. 77, 496c (1975–1989).

    [67]. (67) 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 2, 206. Linggu Temple still owned about 320 qing of land around 1600. See 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 3, 304.

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    [69]. (69) 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 2, 250–251. Even the lands granted by the royal family lost some of their privileges during Wanli period. Please refer to 金陵梵刹志. Vol. 50, 1601–1620.

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    [71]. (71) Please refer to Timothy Brook, The Chinese State in Ming Society (London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2005), pp. 133–34, 137–38. Also refer to “At the Margin of Public Authority: The Ming State and Buddhism, ” in Huter et al., eds., Culture and State in Chinese History: Conventions, Accommodations, and Critiques (Stanford, Cali.: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 161–81.

    [72]. (72) Brook, The Chinese State in Ming Society, p.150.

    [73]. (73) Yu Junfang believed that the certificate could help Sangha to restore autonomy, while Timothy Brook believed that this had led to a serious devaluation of the status of Buddhists. Jiang Canteng agreed with Timothy Brook. See: Yü, The Renewal of Buddhism in China, p. 162; Timothy Brook, Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 32; Jiang, C. 晚明佛教改革史. Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press, 22–28 (2008).

    [74]. (74) Brook, The Chinese State in Ming Society, p. 151.

    [75]. (75) He, X. Studies in World Religions (世界宗教研究), (4): 27–30 (2007).

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    [77]. (77) For the warnings about the country’s interference in Buddhist affairs recorded in the Buddhist scriptures, please refer to 佛说仁王般若波罗蜜经. Vol. 2 in 大正新修大藏经, No. 245, Vol. 8, 833b.

    [78]. (78) Jacdques Gernet, Buddhism in Chinese Society: An Economic History from the Fifth to the Tenth Centuries (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), chapter 8.

    [79]. (79) Michael Walsh, Sacred Economies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), p. 21. For the fact that land property is the main business of Buddhist temple economic activities, refer to Chapter 3–6 of this book.

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    [84]. (84) For the rich income of yoga Buddhists that made their living through worship ceremonies, see Chen, Y. in 明代的佛教与社会. Beijing: Peking University Press, 266–270.

    [85]. (85) Sheng, K. 中国佛教忏法研究. Beijing: China Religious Culture Publisher, 368–375, 403–405 (2004).

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