Development of transnational Theravada meditation in contemporary China

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Based on ethnographic study in mainland China since 2014, this paper explores how the recent popularity of transnational Theravada meditation practices has been a result of Buddhist modernization in Asia and the West since the early 20th Century. With the influence of globalization and Buddhist modernism in Asia, various meditation practices in Theravada tradition and secularized form, such as satipatthana, samatha, vipassana and mindfulness, have been transmitted to Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and then mainland China in the past two decades. My fieldwork reveals that regular meditation retreats have been organized by monastics and lay people in traditional Han Chinese Buddhist monasteries. This paper examines how the transnational meditation practices have been adapted and localized, especially by lay people, in the modern Chinese social context. I argue that the emergence of Theravada meditation practices not only reflects the dynamics of transition of old-formed institutionalized religion to the resurgence of new forms of religion, but also an active response to Buddhist modernization, promoted by active Buddhist reformer in the early 20th Century, such as Taixu and Yinshun. Copyright © 2016 Hong Kong Sociological Association annual conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016



Lau, N.-S. (2016, December). Development of transnational Theravada meditation in contemporary China. Paper presented at the HKSA 2016 – Hong Kong Sociological Association annual conference: Coming of age: Sociology through the generations, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.