From Comrades to Bodhisattvas

Moral Dimensions of Lay Buddhist Practice in Contemporary China

(從同志到菩薩: 當代中國居士的道德世界)

Gareth Fisher

ISBN : 978-988-8208-45-6

Religion, Philosophy

January 2015

280 pages, 6″ x 9″, 11 b&w illustrations and 2 tables

For sale in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand only

  • HK$390.00

From Comrades to Bodhisattvas is the first book-length study of Han Chinese Buddhism in post-Mao China. Supported by over a decade of ethnographic research, it provides an intimate portrait of lay Buddhist practitioners in Beijing who have embraced a religion that they were once socialized to see as harmful superstition. The book focuses on the lively debates that take place among these new practitioners in an unused courtyard of a Beijing temple, where laypersons gather to listen to the fiery sermons of charismatic preachers, and seek solutions to personal moral crises.

Spurred on by the lessons of the preachers and stories in the media, these courtyard practitioners inventively combine moral elements from China’s Maoist past with Buddhist teachings on the workings of karma and the importance of universal compassion. Their aim is to articulate a moral antidote to what they see as blind obsession with consumption and wealth accumulation among twenty-first-century Chinese.

Full of engaging descriptions of the real lives of practicing lay Buddhists, From Comrades to Bodhisattvas will interest specialists in Chinese Buddhism, anthropologists of contemporary Asia, and all scholars interested in the relationship between religion and cultural change.

Gareth Fisher is assistant professor of religion and anthropology at Syracuse University.

From Comrades to Bodhisattvas reveals for the first time an important and rapidly developing aspect of Chinese religiosity—the rise of lay Buddhism, which takes place in the cracks of China’s strict system of religious control. Nothing in the current literature on Buddhism or on religion in China is comparable to Fisher’s important contribution.” —Robert P. Weller, Boston University

“In the outer courtyards of Chinese Buddhist temples, Professor Fisher has discovered a liminal space between the state-controlled public sidewalk and the monastic-controlled inner halls where worshipers negotiate a new framework for their lives through discussion, the building of a do-it-yourself Buddhism, and nostalgia for the days of Mao. It was a delight to accompany him and get to know these enterprising, very human, and not-always-orthodox Buddhists.” —Charles B. Jones, The Catholic University of America