Monks, Rulers, and Literati: The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism

Hardcover | January 25, 2006

byAlbert Welter

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The Chan (Zen in Japanese) school began when, in seventh-century China, a small religious community gathered around a Buddhist monk named Hongren. Over the centuries, Chan Buddhism grew from an obscure movement to an officially recognized and eventually dominant form of Buddhism in China andthroughout East Asia. It has reached international popularity, its teachings disseminated across cultures far and wide. In Monks, Rulers, and Literati, Albert Welter presents, for the first time in a comprehensive fashion in a Western work, the story of the rise of Chan, a story which has been obscured by myths about Zen. Zen apologists in the twentieth century, Welter argues, sold the world on the story of Zen as atranscendental spiritualism untainted by political and institutional involvements. In fact, Welter shows that the opposite is true: relationships between Chan monks and political rulers were crucial to Chan's success. The book concentrates on an important but neglected period of Chan history, the10th and 11th centuries, when monks and rulers created the so-called Chan "golden age" and the classic principles of Chan identity. Placing Chan's ascendancy into historical context, Welter analyzes the social and political factors that facilitated Chan's success as a movement. He then examineshow this success was represented in the Chan narrative and the aims of those who shaped it. Monks, Rulers, and Literati recovers a critical period of Zen's past, deepening our understanding of how the movement came to flourish. Welter's groundbreaking work is not only the most comprehensive history of the dominant strand of East Asian Buddhism, but also an important corrective to many ofthe stereotypes about Zen.

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From the Publisher

The Chan (Zen in Japanese) school began when, in seventh-century China, a small religious community gathered around a Buddhist monk named Hongren. Over the centuries, Chan Buddhism grew from an obscure movement to an officially recognized and eventually dominant form of Buddhism in China andthroughout East Asia. It has reached interna...

Albert Welter is Professor of Asian Religions at the University of Winnipeg in Canada. He is the author of The Meaning of Myriad Good Deeds: A Study of Yung-Ming Yen-Shou and the Wan-Shan T'ung-Kuei Chi (1994).

other books by Albert Welter

Format:HardcoverDimensions:334 pages, 6.18 × 9.41 × 1.18 inPublished:January 25, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195175212

ISBN - 13:9780195175219

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"Welter's Monks, Rulers, and Literati is a much needed and very readable work that presents a rich and multifaceted picture of the development of Chan and significantly advances our understanding of it. It is a must-read for every scholar interested in Chinese Buddhism." --Journal of ChineseReligions