2016 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


The Interaction of the State and Buddhism:
A Study on the Reformation of Buddhism in Republican Nanjing

Jiade Shao

Department of Philosophy, Nanjing University

The various municipal governments of Nanjing between 1927 and 1949 tried to reform Buddhism and build an ideal Buddhist community. However, neither radical nor moderate strategies made much progress in reforming local practices. Previous scholarship has tended to explain this failure by focusing on the resistance put up by monks and believers. This article takes another approach by highlighting the how different political groups and individuals (rather than a hypothesized “state”) adopted distinct attitudes towards Buddhism because Buddhist monks and temples had become bargaining chips in an arena of modern politics in China. Buddhism could continue to survive in the interstices created by the competition and internal friction of political groups. The so-called “state” affected Buddhism and was affected by Buddhism. Yet Buddhism was neither a religion suppressed by the state, nor an independent realm that could negotiate with the government. In fact, the “state” and modern Buddhism were mutually imbricated.


Keywords: republican government, Buddhist reformation, Nanjing