Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia: Places of Practice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia

Places of Practice, 1st Edition

Edited by James A. Benn, Lori Meeks, James Robson


248 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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The area of Buddhist monasticism has long attracted the interest of Buddhist studies scholars and historians, but the interpretation of the nature and function of monasteries across diverse cultures and vast historical periods remains a focus for debate. This book provides a multifaceted discussion of religious, social, cultural, artistic, and political functions of Buddhist monasteries in medieval China and Japan.

With contributions from leading scholars in the field, this volume explores the multiplicity of the institutions that make up "the Buddhist monastery." Drawing on new research and on previous studies hitherto not widely available in English, the chapters cover key issues such as the relationship between monastics and lay society, the meaning of monastic vows, how specific institutions functioned, and the differences between urban and regional monasteries. Collectively, the book demonstrates that medieval monasteries in East Asia were much more than merely residences for monks who, cut off from the dust and din of society and all its entrapments, collectively pursued an ideal cenobitic lifestyle.

Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia is a timely contribution to the ongoing attempts to understand a central facet of Buddhist religious practice, and will be a significant work for academics and students in the fields of Buddhist Studies, Asian Studies, and East Asian Religions.


"This book is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of studies focusing on Buddhist practice. It offers a timely description of the manifold contributions made by the Buddhist monastery as an institution in medieval China and Japan, and benefits its readers by helping them to understand the nature and function of such monasteries… This book offers a wealth of new research and careful considerations presented by leading scholars in the field… Not only will this book serve as a valuable resource for scholars and students, it will hopefully encourage further investigations into places of religious practice across cultures." - Pei-Yin Lin, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 18, 2011

Table of Contents

Introduction: Neither Too Far, Nor Too Near: The Historical and Cultural Contexts of Buddhist Monasteries in Medieval China and Japan James Robson 1. Taking a Meal at a Lay Supporter’s Residence: The Evolution of the Practice in Chinese Vinaya Commentaries Koichi Shinohara 2. Monastic Spaces and Sacred Traces: Facets of Chinese Buddhist Monastic Records James Robson 3. Pictorial Program in the Making of Monastic Space: From Jing’aisi of Luoyang to Cave 217 at Dunhuang Eugene Wang 4. The Monastery Cat in Cross-cultural Perspective: Cat Poems of the Zen Masters T.H. Barrett 5. The Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan: The Insider’s View William Bodiford 6. Vows for the Masses: Eison and the Popular Expansion of Precept-Conferral Ceremonies in Premodern Japan Lori Meeks 7. Koen and the “Consecrated Ordination” Within Japanese Tendai Paul Groner

About the Editors

James A. Benn is Associate Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions at McMaster University. His main area of research is Buddhism and Taoism in Medieval China.

Lori Meeks is Assistant Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. She has published extensively on the roles of women as consumers and practitioners of Buddhism in Japan during the Heian and Kamakura periods.

James Robson is Associate Professor of Chinese Buddhism at Harvard University. He studies Buddhism and Taoism in medieval China.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Buddhism / Rituals & Practice
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General