Diaspora’s Dharma: Buddhist Connections across the South China Sea by Asst Prof Jack Meng-Tat Chia

16:00 to 17:30
(GMT+08:00) Kuala Lumpur, Singapore


The restoration of Nanputuo Monastery (Nanputuo si 南普陀寺) in Xiamen and the revival of its South China Sea Buddhist networks in recent decades are significant factors in the religious resurgence in southeast China since the reform and open-door period. This lecture discusses an earlier role of such networks in this region, using Nanputuo Monastery as a case study, to explore the transregional Buddhist connections between southeast China and maritime Southeast Asia from the turn of the twentieth century to 1949. It argues that new patterns of Buddhist mobility contributed to the circulation of people, ideas, and resources across the South China Sea. I show that, on the one hand, Buddhist monks and religious knowledge moved along these networks from China to maritime Southeast Asia, while money from overseas Chinese was channeled along the networks for temple building in China; on the other hand, Buddhist monks relied on the networks to support China’s war effort and facilitate their relocation to Southeast Asia during the Sino–Japanese War. Examining these networks also explains the emergence of modernist Chinese Buddhism throughout maritime Southeast Asia in the early to mid-twentieth century.


Jack Meng-Tat Chia is Assistant Professor of History and Religious Studies at the National University of Singapore. He specializes in Buddhism in maritime Southeast Asia and has broader research interests in migration, diasporas, transnationalism, pilgrimage, and religious diplomacy. He is the author of Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea (Oxford, 2020), which was awarded the 2021 EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize. He has also published articles in journals such as Asian Ethnology, China Quarterly, Contemporary Buddhism, Critical Asian Studies, History of Religions, and Journal of Chinese Religions. He is currently working on two book projects: Beyond the Borobudur: Buddhism in Postcolonial Indonesia and Diplomatic Dharma: Buddhist Diplomacy in Modern Asia.


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Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS)
Hybrid (Online via Zoom & AS8 04-04) 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260 National University of Singapore @ KRC

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