Dr. Gareth Fisher - Postdoctoral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies
The distribution of tracts, booklets, and religious texts in Chinese Buddhist temples is a well-documented tradition that dates back many centuries. Drawing on an analysis of temple literature collected during my fieldwork, my presentation will discuss how a continuation of this practice has contributed to the revival of contemporary Chinese Buddhism. I will discuss how books, tapes, and DVDs were initially distributed into mainland China by overseas Chinese. Subsequently, many have been reprinted and redistributed by lay practitioners in China. Finally, Chinese lay practitioners have written and distributed their own commentaries on Buddhist texts, many of which relate core Buddhist teachings to modern social issues. I argue that the production and distribution of this literature contributes to the formation of an alternative source of media and a lively civic discourse away from the eye of the state. A sample of temple literature will be passed around during the presentation and subsequent discussion.