Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) 133-134
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Buddhism in Taiwan: Religion and the State, 1660-1990
Buddhism in Taiwan: Religion and the State, 1660-1990. By Charles B.Jones. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. 233 pp.
Charles Jones spent over three years living in Taiwan pursuing the research for this book and for journal articles about religion on the island. He is currently on the faculty of the Department of Religion at the Catholic University of America. Jones primarily focuses on the history of Chinese Buddhism as an organized religion in Taiwan from the mid-1600s to the late 1980s. This is a much needed study as most literature on Chinese Buddhism is based on Mainland Chinese Buddhism. Only in the last decade has there been a shift to focus on Taiwan Buddhism as a separate entity rather than seeing it only as an extension of Mainland Chinese Buddhism.
The book is nicely organized into three major historical eras. Part 1 is titled "The Ming and Qing Dynasty (1660-1895)." This section, only one chapter, mainly focuses on the arrival and early development of Buddhism in Taiwan. Part 2 is titled "The Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945)." This section, two chapters, of course focuses on the advent of Japanese Buddhism on the island along with its impact on Taiwan's Buddhism. Part 3 is titled "From Retrocession to the Modern Period (1945-1990)." This is the largest section of the book, with four chapters. I found this section to be more detailed and interesting than the previous two sections. I will spend the remainder of this book review commenting on this last section.
In part 3 of his book, Jones begins with a chapter on the retrocession (the period at the end of World War II when Japan was forced out of Taiwan) and the arrival of the Mainland Buddhist monks to Taiwan. This chapter shows the emergence of an organized Buddhism that started to develop under the oversight of the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China (BAROC), which had begun previous to World War II in Mainland China but relocated to Taiwan with the national government in 1949. Also of interest in this chapter is the discussion of the power struggles within Buddhism between a traditionalist faction led byYuanying, and a reformist faction led by Taixu. In the end, the struggle was resolved in favor of the traditionalists; this has led to Taiwan Buddhism tending to incline toward conservatism.
Chapter five focuses entirely on the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China (BAROC). It is neatly organized into two major sections, "The early period, 1949-1960," and "The middle period, 1960-1986." In the early period section, Jones does a good job explaining the BAROC's organization, mission, and activities. Included as well is a small but fascinating discussion on "The vitality of the nun's order after 1952," in which Jones tries to answer the question of why nuns have increasingly come to predominate numerically over monks, a situation that exists only in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The second half of the chapter, "The middle period, 1960-1986," focuses on the leadership of the BAROC under Baisheng. From 1960, when Baisheng became president of BAROC, until his death in 1986, Baisheng remained a controlling presence in BAROC affairs, despite the fact that he did not hold the presidency continuously [End Page 133] during this period. Also in this section, Jones highlights the internationalism ofTaiwan Buddhism under the leadership of Baisheng, which was seen in the ordinations of foreign monks and in the involvement of BAROC in international Buddhism organizations. This chapter also covers the continual struggle to regain possession of Japanese-era temples.
Chapter five ends with a section called "Criticisms of the BAROC." The largest criticism leveled against the BAROC was that it failed to become the unifying force for Taiwan Buddhism that it might have been, a problem related to its elitist attitude at the national level, where only a very small closed group of people had the actual decision...