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My research follows the Taiwan-based, but now fast-growing global Buddhist movement, Fo Guang Shan (FGS, Buddha’s Light Mountain, 佛光山), with a main focus on its most recent development in the PRC. This multi-sited ethnographic study examines FGS’s seven branches, including two religious sites in Yixing and Nanjing, and five cultural enterprises in Yangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. Compared with my six-year (2014-2020) preceding experience at different FGS branches in Taiwan, the UK, France, Australia, and HKSAR, my thirteen-month fieldwork (2020-2021) at FGS mainland branches demonstrates their peculiarities of localisation through expedient means and their primary roles in spreading the good and navigating the moral life of mainland Chinese today. I also investigate how FGS Humanistic Buddhism in Master Hsing Yun (its founder)’s model, as a bedrock of FGS global network, has accomplished its round trajectory: born in the mainland, thrived across the strait, and returned in its birth cradle. Embedded in the broader context of transnational transcendence, global Buddhist missions, localisation, and religion-state relations, this project will involve the theoretical discussions in the anthropology of religion, the anthropology of ethics and the anthropology of the good.



Dajue Temple, the ancestral temple of FGS, spreads Humanistic Buddhism through the amalgamation of traditional pedagogy in the Linji (Rinzai in Japanese, 臨濟) Division of Chan (Zen in Japanese, 禪) school, and modernised pedagogy interpreted by its founder Master Hsing Yun. The Dajue Culture Training Class, a quasi-Buddhist seminary, presents a typical vignette of the disciplinarian Buddhist training inside a humanistic temple in which Dharma is usually accessible through modernised activities.

In this photo, female participants are training their all-pervasive concentration with simultaneous care of the ceramic bowls on their heads, stable footsteps, even breathing and walking in line. Such a training is not only beneficial to their Chan mind, but also constitutes a significant part of being a qualified Buddhist practitioner, namely having dignified comportment (weiyi, 威儀).



Photo Caption: Dignified Comportment Training with a ceramic bowl on head in a short-term Buddhist culture training class at Dajue Temple, Yixing, Jiangsu Province,
the PRC


In this photo, ‘Three Goods’ (do good deeds, speak good words, and think good thoughts), as key ethical entries in FGS Humanistic Buddhism, have been propagated through modern music and dance. Such an alive flash mob performance exemplifies another facet of ethical pedagogy at Dajue Temple, which sharply contrasts with the solemn monastic training in the first photo. This alive activity united participants across different age groups and geographical religions, Buddhists and non-Buddhists, Foguang people and public visitors, especially young people across the strait (Dajue youth in orange T-shirt and Taiwanese youth in blue T-shirt), under the universal and eirenic advocacy of the good.



Photo Caption: A flash mob of the ‘Three Goods Song’ performance participated by temple-based youth volunteers, Taiwanese youth in the mainland and tourists during the National Holiday, at Dajue Temple, Yixing, Jiangsu Province, the PRC


‘Three Goods’, as guiding principles, have been advocated in all FGS mainland branches, especially in cultural and educational centres where Buddhism is categorised into a part of Chinese traditional culture with good moral teachings. Practising ‘Three Goods’ can be realised through voluntary service for making merits. Devotees also focus on cultivating wisdom/knowledge through Dharma learning, which can be examined by FGS Global Buddhist Exam.


Photo Caption: ‘Three Goods’ Youth volunteers dressed in red vests with the taglines at the back are checking their results of 2021 FGS Global Buddhist Exam at the cultural and educational centre of FGS Beijing, the PRC