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Mapping Fo Guang Shan

Charting the development of a global Buddhist movement

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The spread of Buddhism has always been a global phenomenon. In the last half-century, technological changes (travel, communications) have provided new opportunities for the "propagation of the Dharma" and ushered in a new age of religious belonging. This new age is captured in the growth of global Buddhist movements—rooted in tradition, yet fully modern in their outlook, commitments, and transmission.

Fo Guang Shan 佛光山寺, which Venerable Master Hsing Yun began in 1967, has blossomed into an organization with over 200 temples and a multitude of cultural centers, lay organizations, universities, museums, and restaurants. To track the presence and growth of the movement, the ISHB Project Team has developed multi-use GIS maps of Fo Guang Shan institutions as a resource for scholars and practitioners.  The specific aim of the project is to provide comprehensive, up-to-date maps and resource tools that can serve as a starting point for insightful research on Fo Guang Shan and the global spread of Humanistic Buddhism.



Stage One. The Project Team identified existing maps and lists of Fo Guang Shan temples. Founding dates for temples were gathered through temple online resources (web sites, Facebook pages) and cross-checked with Master Hsing Yun's writings. Google Sheets was used to gather this information. And an initial set of maps and resources were developed using the Google map platform and animation software. This initial set of Google maps was made available in the fall of 2019.

Stage Two. The switch was made to the ArcGIS platform. The Project Team added to the project database GIS information for FGS universities and Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) chapters, and universities in Taiwan, North & South America, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Asia. With the data, a new comprehensive map was rendered in ArcGIS. Interactive timelines, story maps, and layered maps were also produced.

  • Temple locations. We referenced several Fo Guang Shan sites and cross-checked the data we collected from these different sources.  When there were discrepancies, we referred to temple websites, social media sites (Facebook), Google maps, and personal sources.

  • Temple start dates. Information was collected from Master Hsing Yun's writings and temple websites. A start date for a temple that was newly constructed is the year the temple was consecrated.  A start date for a temple that moved into a pre-existing structure is the year in which the temple or property was transferred to Fo Guang Shan. 

  • Closed temples. are ones that Fo Guang Shan temporarily inhabited until they moved to their permanent location. For these temples, we used the start year for the new location.

  • BLIA. The Buddha's Light International Association chapter list was provided by a member.  Official addresses were often not available, so chapter locations are more generally linked to the city/region.

FGS Locations & Attributes

The ArcGIS map highlights the data we have collected and provides a comprehensive view of FGS temples, universities, and lay organizations (BLIA) around the world. The map does not include cultural associations in China and Malaysia and other FGS art galleries and tea houses. 

Historical Development of FGS Temples

The following interactive timeline maps visualize the global spread of Fo Guang Shan over time. Up until the 1980's, FGS growth is centered in Taiwan. From 1980 up to the present, the organization established many new temples around the world. (Note: these timeline maps do not include Buddha's Light International Associations, as the founding of BLIA chapters were difficult to determine.)

Begin the animation, by clicking on the "play" button; the animation can be stopped at any moment, by pressing "stop." 

North America
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Story Maps

Beyond the Dot

Story maps for key FGS temples in North American are featured below.  Drawing from Master Hsing Yun's own account, these maps provide an understanding of the early beginnings and founding of each temple.  They offer a visual narrative that goes beyond the "dot on the map"—background into the relationships and work that went into the establishment of a temple, as well as the challenges that FGS had to overcome to build within certain communities.  The story is further enhanced by images of specific sites that point out events and key features of the temple.

Using Map Layers

Case Study: Taiwan

ArcGIS allows for the incorporation of different map layers into a single view. In the following case study, our map of FGS temples in Taiwan is seen here with an overlay of an existing ArcGIS map of 2016 population density estimate data and with railway lines highlighted.  One can instantly see that FGS has established temples in densely populated urban areas along the main railway lines.  And if one pans out to view other regions of the world, the same insight holds true. This provides strong evidence that Fo Guang Shan is a global Buddhist movement that is truly urban in nature.

The use of map layers is able to make visible interesting patterns in terms of demographics (e.g., age, income), communication channels, and transportation routes. As such, it provides a powerful research tool for scholars and religious leaders to test hypotheses, gather evidence, and predict future trends.

The map of Fo Guang Shan institutions is publicly available on ArcGIS. The platform also includes ready-made maps from other institutions (such as the 2016 World Population Density Estimate featured here) or researchers may construct their own map overlays using their own data.

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Using Map Layers

Case Study: FGS and Human Development Index

  • Interested in using our data or maps?

  • Have corrections you would like to share?

  • Have found the maps useful and would like to let us know?

  • Please contact us!

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