Stuart Young - Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Bucknell University
Sericulture has always been a central defining feature of Chinese civilization, and silk a cornerstone of Chinese Buddhist material culture. This talk illustrates how Buddhism in premodern China shaped and was shaped by the ubiquitous Chinese silk industry. In many ways silk was the fabric of monasticism in premodern China–infused within the material and ideal worlds of Chinese Buddhists. Against the backdrop of normative Indian Buddhist pronouncements concerning material production, commercial engagement, attachment to luxuries, and especially killing living beings, the topic of Chinese Buddhist silk culture promises novel insights into monastic identity as negotiated between avowedly foreign religious paradigms and widespread, culturally embedded, traditions of material production.