Destructing and Reconstructing Buddhist Sacred Places in Modern China
From 1866 to 1966, from the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion through to the eve of the Cultural Revolution, countless Buddhist temples, monasteries, shrines, pagodas, pavilions, and other sacred spaces in China were destroyed. Destruction came at the hands of rebels, marauding soldiers, official anti-religious campaigns, civil and world wars, or simply from neglect as buildings were left to the mercy of the elements. Hundreds of sacred spaces were also, however, restored through enthusiastic reconstruction campaigns led by monastics and laypeople. This presentation introduces my current research project on the modern history of Chinese Buddhist monastic restoration and reconstruction. My goal is to explore the complex material, social, political, and religious connections between rebuilding material spaces and re-imagining religious orthodoxy. Building upon the work of Holmes Welch while critiquing his interpretations, I seek to understand this period of Chinese religious history not as one of 'revival' or 'modernism', but rather as a reconstruction; one that involved old materials and new technologies, and which followed longstanding patterns of institutional regeneration while making use of new networks and forms of power in its creative rebuilding of the Chinese Buddhist edifice.
Gregory Adam Scott 史瑞戈 is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. His current research project examines the reconstruction of Buddhist sacred sites in modern China and its relationship to the reconstruction of Buddhist religiosity. He has studied at York University and the University of Toronto, and was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica in Taiwan. He received his PhD in Chinese Buddhism from Columbia University in 2013, and was a digital humanities postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. He is most recently co-editor of and chapter contributor to Religious Publishing and Print Culture in Modern China, 1800-2012 (Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015).