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Prof. Dr. Jinhua Chen: Market and Merit: Reconsidering the Monastic Financial and Banking system under the Rule of Emperor Liang Wudi (r. 502-549)
17. May 2017, 16:00 - 18:00
Scholars have made great strides to study the important role that Buddhism played in promoting economic, financial, and commercial activities in medieval China. There is, however, one limitation is in need of addressing: almost singular focus on the economic activities carried out within or in connection with the saṃgha, with little attention to the economic and financial context for some allegedly “pure” religious programs installed by Buddhists. This lecture endeavors to make some long overdue compensation for this unbalanced approach. First, it introduces the proto-banking institution known as wujinzang 無盡藏 (Inexhaustible Treasury), which was established during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (i.e. Liang Wudi, r. 502-549), who modeled himself upon King Asoka. Then it traces its provenance back to some significant precedents and practices in India. Finally, I highlight several major impacts Liang Wudi’s wujinzang system appears to have wrought on its counterpart during the Sui-Tang period in China when, primarily because of the charismatic Buddhist monk Xinxing (540-594) and the leader of the Buddhist movement known as Sanjie jiao (The cult of Three Stages), the Inexhaustible Treasury shaped the institutional role of the Buddhist church in China for centuries.
Jinhua Chen is a professor of East Asian Buddhism at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he has served since 2001 as the founding director of the UBC Buddhist Studies Forum. He is currently the director of the newly-awarded multi-year international and interdisciplinary Partnership project sponsored by SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) Project that aims at reconstructing several key aspects of East Asian religions through multi-media sources and interdisciplinary perspectives, based at UBC (www.frogbear.org). His numerous publications cover different parts of Eats Asian Buddhism, such as state-church relationships, monastic (hagio/)biographical literature, Buddhist sacred sites, relic veneration, Buddhism and technological innovation in medieval China, Buddhist translations, and manuscript culture.