Series Four Volume 2

Buddhism and Superstition: Buddhist Apologetics in the Anti-Superstition Campaigns in Modern China

The paper examines Buddhist apologetics in the Chinese anti-superstition campaigns in the 1920s and the early 1930s. When the Nationalist government launched the campaign to root out superstition, the ambiguous notion of “superstition” (mixin) became an important site of contention. In response to Chinese intellectuals’ interpretations of the neologies of “superstition” and “religion” as Buddhist attempts to spread irrational beliefs and practices, Liang Qichao梁啟超, Taixu 太虛, and other Buddhist writers defended the Buddhist tradition. Through analyzing the writings of Buddhists and their critics, the paper explores how “superstition” was interpreted in the Chinese context, as well as its implications for Buddhism. The paper shows that Buddhist authors actively engaged with these new discourses to articulate their actual beliefs and practices. Differentiating the Buddhist “true faith” (zhengxin 正信) from “deluded faith” (mixin 迷 信), they tried to defend Buddhism from the accusation of spread- ing superstition. To promote the relevance of Buddhism in public life, they advocated for Buddhism’s role in advancing education and social welfare. Though sharing a common concern about the tradition, the authors took different strategies in their apologetics, and these differences reflected the conflicting views among educated Buddhists regarding the role of Buddhism in modern China.

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