Between Faith and Truth: The Historiography of Buddhism in Modern China (1902-1965)
von Qinqin Peng
Datum der mündl. Prüfung:2021-11-17
Betreuer:Prof. Dr. Axel Schneider
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. John Kieschnick
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Dominic Sachsenmaier
EnglischThe historiography of Buddhism 佛教史學) in modern China develops under the influence of modernity and amidst dramatic transformations in the Chinese intellectual world. It combines the philological tradition of Evidential Learning with foreign intellectual trends in history, philosophy, and linguistics, and develops syncretistic methodologies of data collection, textual criticism, chronological arrangement, and historiographical interpretation. As one pivotal part of the so called “Buddhist revival,” this research branch demonstrates the formation of modern Buddhist knowledge and introduced religious concerns into Chinese academia. It plays a cardinal role in the re-invention of Chinese Buddhist tradition, as well as the establishment of ‘Chinese Buddhism’. Most leading scholars of the modern period contributed to this field, including historians such as Liang Qichao, Hu Shi, Chen Yinke, Tang Yongtong, Chen Yuan; and scholarly monks and Lay Buddhists such as Taixu, Yinshun, Lü Cheng, and so on. Due to their different motivations and viewpoints, the writing of Buddhist history quickly grew in diversity and complexity, triggering debates, controversies, and discussions. Practices and phenomena related to this new research area not only reflect the general interdisciplinary character of the historiography of Buddhism as a border field but also show how it was constrained by specific contextual factors and two ontological concerns: what is ‘Chinese Buddhism’ and what is ‘China’. Investigating how these two concerns were addressed by modern Chinese intellectuals will deepen our knowledge of the history of historiography in modern China and contribute to a more thorough understanding of how the field of religion has changed as well as how modern Chinese intellectuals in their studies of religion and history have tried to re-understand themselves, China and the world. Recently, the changes of Buddhism in China since the 1890s has been investigated by current scholarship. However, because of the current dominant discourse of secular modernity in historiography, as well as the prevailed research paradigm of “religion-state” in religious studies, issues like the modernization of Buddhist knowledge and the tension between faith and truth in the writings of the history of Buddhism remain unresearched. To examine the influence of historiography on modern Buddhist studies and the fundamental mechanism of the formation of Buddhism as new knowledge regime, my study focuses on the modern discourses of this religious tradition, with particular emphasis on the historiographical transition of Buddhist studies from the 1900s to the 1960s. By comparing different scholars with different backgrounds in faith and varying conceptual approaches, I investigate the general background of the historiography in modern China as well as several specific topics, including the construction of the general history of Chinese Buddhism, the authenticity of Buddhist textual tradition, the narrative of Buddhist sinicization, etc. Using the methodology of academic history and discourse analysis, my study shed light on the genealogy of modern Chinese historiography of Buddhism. The emerging academic interest in writing the history of Buddhism engaged with the changing scholarly and religious situation in modern China. Historians and Buddhist organized, criticized, and interpretated the past of Buddhism through hermeneutic readings of Buddhist texts and through critically utilizing new theories. Their attempts of historizing Buddhism further led to the formation of a ‘secularized’ understanding of Buddhism. In this process, ‘Chinese Buddhism’ was constructed terminologically and discursively. The historiography of Buddhism reflects the relocation of Buddhism in the modernized constellation of Chinese traditions and the attempts of reshaping Buddhism as an alternative to Confucianism to be a national cultural identity. This textual-historiographical path (文史路徑), which has developed different research perspectives, became the dominant paradigm of modern Chinese religious scholarship. It influenced the defining of Buddhism as a ‘religion’ (discursively in parallel to science, and superstition) and participated in the multifaceted process of modernization.
Keywords: Buddhism, Modern China, historiography, religion