Tue, May 10

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Dr. Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu - An Overview of Death Rituals in Chinese Buddhist Monasteries of Present-Day Myanmar

Death rituals and Buddhism are mutually interdependent, and this is especially the case in Chinese contexts. In fact, numerous studies have explored Buddhist funeral or Chinese death rituals; however, present-day Chinese Burmese’s Buddhist death rituals have come under much less scrutiny.

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Dr. Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu - An Overview of Death Rituals in Chinese Buddhist Monasteries of Present-Day Myanmar

Time & Location

May 10, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

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About the Event

Modern and Contemporary Buddhist Encounters in the Southern Sinosphere

Institute for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism (ISHB), University of the West

Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Death rituals and Buddhism are mutually interdependent; as Spiro put it, ‘death ceremonies are the primary concern of Buddhism’ (1970, 248), and this is especially the case in Chinese contexts. In fact, numerous studies have explored Buddhist funeral or Chinese death rituals; however, present-day Chinese Burmese’s Buddhist death rituals have come under much less scrutiny. Against this backdrop, this paper discusses two issues.

Firstly, the mixing of customs and rites of funerals practiced in Chinese Buddhist monasteries with funeral practices of Chinese folk religion within current Burmese contexts. Examples of the latter include the ritual of breaking the hell, crossing the bridge, and the burning of paper houses. These rituals were all to some extent included into the format of Buddhist death rituals.

Secondly, by paying attention to different degrees of ‘desinicization’ and/or assimilation during and after the post-war period of Myanmar, this study also discusses some of the nuanced differences between the religious lifestyles and practices of the Yunnanese and Hokkien/Cantonese ethnic Chinese, a key factor that researchers in this area have largely neglected.

Prior to joining the Research Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology/Centre for the Advancement of the Humanities and Social Sciences, National Taiwan University (2021) as a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Tzu-Lung Melody Chiu was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies at the Max Planck Institute (2017-2021) and the University of California, Berkeley (2016-2017). Her research interests include Indian Vinaya rules, Bodhisattva Precepts, contemporary Chinese Buddhism, gender, the Chinese diaspora, and Buddhist rituals and practices; and she has written a number of research articles on traditional Vinaya rules applied (or not) in contemporary Chinese Buddhist contexts. She is currently researching the position and the practice of Chinese Buddhism in Myanmar and Thailand, and explores how Chinese Buddhists as a local religious minority seek social recognition in Southeast Asia, thus extending academic research on Mahāyāna Buddhism to its marginal regions.

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