a public event
Retreat Practices in Buddhist China, late Qing to the Present
Center for Buddhist Studies Colloquium Series with RAOUL BIRNBAUM
Friday, October 31, 2003
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
243 Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Deparment of Art History, UC Santa Cruz
Many eminent Chinese Buddhist monks of the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries engaged in extended retreats, as did countless practitioners whose names have been lost to the winds of time. These practices ranged from the enforced disciplines of group practices in the monastic meditation hall, to formal "sealed retreats" for up to three years at a time, to extended solitary mountain practices. While such activities were not new to Buddhist China, emphasis on retreat was a particular characteristic of practice in this period. Professor Birnbaum will speak about contexts for this phenomenon, and – based on sources such as autobiographies and instructional writings – discuss some of the actual practices as they have been represented during this period. Diverse retreat practices continue to the present day, and some comments will be made based on field experience in China over the past few decades.
Raoul Birnbaum is professor of Buddhist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he also holds the Rebele Chair in History of Art and Visual Culture. His recent work has focused most especially on the world of practice in Buddhist China, from the late Qing to the present. In addition to study of textual and visual materials, his work is informed by continuing field study in Buddhist communities in China. Currently, he is completing a book on the monk Hongyi (1880-1942), a romantic and enigmatic figure who at mid-life stepped aside from an accomplished career as artist and musician to become a monk, and eventually became known as one of twentieth-century China's most eminent Buddhist practitioners.
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