Seeing beyond the state: The negotiation of moral boundaries in the revival and development of Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in contemporary China
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AbstractThis study explores the revival and development of Tibetan Buddhist monasticismin contemporary China since 1980 and its relationship to a society undergoingrapid socio-economic transformations. The speed and extent of the revival hasbeen one of the most extraordinary aspects of the Tibetan Buddhist resurgence.Yet, monastic actors are facing serious challenges as they attempt to ‘move withthe times’ while maintaining the soteriological and mundane bases of monasticBuddhism in rapidly changing political, economic and social contexts. Thus far, accounts of the revival have largely been framed in relation to theChinese state, the shifting public space for religion and culture and the ‘Tibetquestion’. This study attempts to ‘see beyond the state’ to examine othercontingent factors in the ongoing process of renewal and development. Taking themonastery as the central unit of a synthetic analysis of its relations to both stateand society and exploring the topic ‘from the ground up’, this study focuses onthe shifting mundane bases of Gelukpa ‘mass monasticism’ over the past 30 yearsat regional monastic centres and local monasteries in eastern Qinghai province,part of the Tibetan Amdo region. By paying attention to the subjectiveexperiences of those involved in monastic development and focusing on its moraldimensions this study provides a fresh perspective on a process that has beenintermeshed with, but not exclusively dominated or defined by, its relationship tothe state.