Buddhism and Modern China

Course Director:   Fan Muyou

Class:   Hour one & two lecture; hour three discussion


  • Class participation: 30%. Timing: weekly.
  • Formative Assignment: 20%. 1,500 English words essay;
  • Summative Assignment: 50%. 3,000 English words essay.


This course offers an opportunity to explore the history and influence of the Buddhist revival in modern China and the application of Buddhist philosophical views in dealing with practical problems in our daily life. We will begin with an investigation into the background and the beginning of the Buddhist revival, and then progress to an exploration of the thought and contribution of the eminent monks to the reform and revival of Buddhist community, and the movement of laity. We will then turn to an explanation of Buddhist doctrine of life and death, non-self, emptiness and equality, and examine how these views could be applied to analyse the problems, such as committing suicide, recognizing self and saving others in difficulty.     


Through completing this course, it is expected that students will

  • acquire a basic knowledge of the experience and activities of the eminent monks and laymen in the Buddhist revival.
  • gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental Buddhist concepts and doctrine.
  • advance the ability of applying the philosophical views to analyse practical problems in modern society.
  • develop their skills and abilities in respect of critical thinking, research, writing and oral presentation.


Birnbaum, Raoul, “Master Hongyi looks back: a ‘modern man’ becomes a monk in 20th-century China,” in Steven Heine and Charles S. Prebish, eds, Buddhism in the modern world: adaptations of an ancient tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 75–124.

Edelglass, William & Garfield, Jay, Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Olson, Carl, Original Buddhist Sources (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005))

Pittman, Don A, Towards a modern Chinese Buddhism: Taixu’s reforms (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 2001)

Welch, Holmes, The Buddhist Revival in China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968)

Zürcher, Erik, The Buddhist Conquest of China (Leiden: Brill, 1972).