How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism? Moved from Discovering Mahayana

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AkashicBrother
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How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism? Moved from Discovering Mahayana

Post by AkashicBrother » Sun May 12, 2019 4:46 am

Moved from the Discovering Mahayana sub-forum. This discussion is more appropriate here in the lounge.

I was reading that there was some damage to religion during the maoist times in china, during the cultural revolution. But i was interested in knowing more concrete things. What was the material damage regarding not only buddhism (both han chinese buddhism and tibetan) but also to the taoist orders and chinese folk believers ? is this over in modern china?

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Re: How damagin was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by mikenz66 » Sun May 12, 2019 8:28 am

I've been in China irregularly over the past few decades, and have visited a number of monasteries, most recently in and around Fuzhou, and mostly Buddhist, but there are some Tao things mixed in, and I have visited a cool Tao temple in the hills around Chongqing, near one of the Universities. The difficulty, as an outsider, is to figure out what the monks and lay people are really thinking, but it's been nice to be around during late-afternoon chanting in a coupe of places.

My impression is that the Chinese government is keen to maintain temples, mountains, gardens, and so on as far as they fit in with the idea of Chinese cultural heritage. And it gives for the Chinese to visit, in the same way many would see the preservation of European churches - as nice historic places to visit.

As far as what the average person thinks, my sampling is poor. I do know a few professional (University) people, and a few non-professional people well enough to have a reasonable idea of their views. Of those, I've only come across a handful who are somewhat serious, in that their idea of an inspiring outing is visiting a monastery (as opposed to others who are happy to accompany me in a touristic capacity).

I emphasise that I'm an outsider, and I only offer the above as a possible stimulus for some more informed discussion!

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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Mon May 13, 2019 12:05 am

It was devastating in Cambodia where monks were forced to flee or disrobe.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Mon May 13, 2019 2:24 am

Read "Buddhism under Mao" by Holmes Welch for the gory details. Bill Porter's travelogues also give some insight into the whole thing, for example, 'Road to Heaven' and 'Zen Baggage.'

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Wayfarer » Mon May 13, 2019 4:25 am

I saw a very interesting recent documentary, part of a series called Asia: Secret Lives, Hidden Places, which is streamed on Curiosity Stream. The second episode was about a remote Buddhist monastic community in southern China, wholly female (Episode 2: China: Mountain of the Gods). It was a really fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at life inside this monastery. The Abbess said that, during the Cultural Revolution, a senior CCP official recognised the historical value of their monastery and actively protected it; had it not been for this, she said, it undoubtedly would have been destroyed like so many other great cultural artefacts and places in China.
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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Mon May 13, 2019 7:36 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:25 am
The Abbess said that, during the Cultural Revolution, a senior CCP official recognised the historical value of their monastery and actively protected it; had it not been for this, she said, it undoubtedly would have been destroyed like so many other great cultural artefacts and places in China.
I've heard this type of story many times, Liao Yiwu's 100 year old abbot had a similar story too (in his Corpse Walker book, https://thebamboosea.wordpress.com/2014 ... %E6%AD%A6/.)
But the sad fact of the matter was that almost everything was destroyed, and the bits that weren't were regularly trotted out in a sheer display of cynicism, for instance when the king of Cambodia came to visit. Moreover, Zhou Enlai's seemingly benevolent record as far as cultural treasures are concerned is also in need of some serious correcting.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by AkashicBrother » Mon May 13, 2019 4:25 pm

I dont want to be unjust to modern china, as i know that the ccp is not like the times of mao. but i read that xi jinping made the religious control worse, which was being reduced by the former recent ccp leaders. hopefully china in the future will be more democratic, even if the ccp continues. i just dont understand why the need for state atheism and forbidding people from the ccp having religious affiliation. In vietnam and laos (which has buddhismn as state religion) , the communist parties have no problem with religious and there are even "patriotic religious organizations " endorsed by the communist parties. in china though, the state atheism thing is far stronger for some reason.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Tue May 14, 2019 12:57 am

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:25 pm
I dont want to be unjust to modern china, as i know that the ccp is not like the times of mao. but i read that xi jinping made the religious control worse, which was being reduced by the former recent ccp leaders. hopefully china in the future will be more democratic, even if the ccp continues. i just dont understand why the need for state atheism and forbidding people from the ccp having religious affiliation. In vietnam and laos (which has buddhismn as state religion) , the communist parties have no problem with religious and there are even "patriotic religious organizations " endorsed by the communist parties. in china though, the state atheism thing is far stronger for some reason.
Buddhism is in fact one of the "5 Official Religions" of China, and there are indeed patriotic religious associations, i.e. the main religious bodies. It is just that party members are required to be atheist.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by AkashicBrother » Wed May 15, 2019 11:50 am

not really. buddhism is one of the 5 ALLOWED religions in china. if a religion is not one of the five (buddhism, shenism, confucianism, christianity and islam) its subject to being harassed and banned and is not counted in the government polls. the state control and ideological atheism in china is also way more strict than in vietnam and laos.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Wed May 15, 2019 3:53 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 11:50 am
not really. buddhism is one of the 5 ALLOWED religions in china. if a religion is not one of the five (buddhism, shenism, confucianism, christianity and islam) its subject to being harassed and banned and is not counted in the government polls. the state control and ideological atheism in china is also way more strict than in vietnam and laos.
The 5 religions are in fact Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity. Confucianism does not figure on this list.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Nemo » Wed May 15, 2019 6:38 pm

If you want to know visit Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. There you can see China untouched by Mao's madness.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by SilenceMonkey » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:44 pm

Post-cultural revolution... but strikingly relevant. A recent book by John Powers called "The Buddha Party" exposes how the CCP manipulates the institution of Buddhism (in this case Tibetan Buddhism), turning it into a tool of the communist state.

https://global.oup.com/academic/product ... us&lang=en&

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Kim O'Hara » Mon Sep 02, 2019 10:41 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:25 pm
I dont want to be unjust to modern china, as i know that the ccp is not like the times of mao. but i read that xi jinping made the religious control worse, which was being reduced by the former recent ccp leaders. hopefully china in the future will be more democratic, even if the ccp continues. i just dont understand why the need for state atheism and forbidding people from the ccp having religious affiliation. In vietnam and laos (which has buddhismn as state religion) , the communist parties have no problem with religious and there are even "patriotic religious organizations " endorsed by the communist parties. in china though, the state atheism thing is far stronger for some reason.
You might like to check out the recent Falun Gong thread, especially from viewtopic.php?f=66&t=31789#p502188 onwards, for more on the tension between religious affiliation and loyalty to the state.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by tobes » Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:53 pm

For clarity: the cultural revolution was a small period b/w 1960's and 70's. It was devastating, but it was fundamentally more about class and party unity than it was religion; or: it was about religion to the extent that religion was understood to reflect class interests. In this respect, Confucianism was probably the biggest target, because it reflected (or was seen to reflect) bourgeois/ pre-communist consciousness. There were hardliners in the CCP that wanted to abolish the Chinese language!

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:06 am

tobes wrote:
Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:53 pm
For clarity: the cultural revolution was a small period b/w 1960's and 70's. It was devastating, but it was fundamentally more about class and party unity than it was religion; or: it was about religion to the extent that religion was understood to reflect class interests. In this respect, Confucianism was probably the biggest target, because it reflected (or was seen to reflect) bourgeois/ pre-communist consciousness. There were hardliners in the CCP that wanted to abolish the Chinese language!
For clarity, it lasted a full decade, 1966-1976. Yes, that counts as a rather "small" period if you are used to looking at Chinese dynastic histories or geological eras, but for those living through that period, it must have not have felt "short" at all. Religion was included among the Four Olds, and was attacked as being part of pre-communistic Chinese culture, rather than reflecting class interest as you state. In fact, a lot of things were simply labelled as such and dispensed with entirely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Olds

As to your last comment on "abolishing the Chinese language," we could do with some clarity here too: some hardliners - included Mao himself -, as well as some educational reformers, suggested replacing Chinese characters with the romanised pinyin system of writing. Obviously everyone would still be speaking Chinese, they would just not be writing it down in characters. The idea was that this would improve literacy rapidly, in addition to ditching the shackles of culture, tradition, etc.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:24 am

humble.student wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 2:24 am
Read "Buddhism under Mao" by Holmes Welch for the gory details. Bill Porter's travelogues also give some insight into the whole thing, for example, 'Road to Heaven' and 'Zen Baggage.'
In addition to these books, one might also read some travelogues from the early 20th century, especially the memoirs of John Blofeld and Peter Goullart (who both lived in monasteries for extended periods of time), or Reginald Johnston's "Buddhist China." Not exactly glorious, but a damn sight better than the next 50 years.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by tobes » Tue Sep 03, 2019 10:52 am

humble.student wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:06 am
tobes wrote:
Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:53 pm
For clarity: the cultural revolution was a small period b/w 1960's and 70's. It was devastating, but it was fundamentally more about class and party unity than it was religion; or: it was about religion to the extent that religion was understood to reflect class interests. In this respect, Confucianism was probably the biggest target, because it reflected (or was seen to reflect) bourgeois/ pre-communist consciousness. There were hardliners in the CCP that wanted to abolish the Chinese language!
For clarity, it lasted a full decade, 1966-1976. Yes, that counts as a rather "small" period if you are used to looking at Chinese dynastic histories or geological eras, but for those living through that period, it must have not have felt "short" at all. Religion was included among the Four Olds, and was attacked as being part of pre-communistic Chinese culture, rather than reflecting class interest as you state. In fact, a lot of things were simply labelled as such and dispensed with entirely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Olds

As to your last comment on "abolishing the Chinese language," we could do with some clarity here too: some hardliners - included Mao himself -, as well as some educational reformers, suggested replacing Chinese characters with the romanised pinyin system of writing. Obviously everyone would still be speaking Chinese, they would just not be writing it down in characters. The idea was that this would improve literacy rapidly, in addition to ditching the shackles of culture, tradition, etc.
Thanks for clarifying the language question.

As for the other point - from the Marxist point of view the reason "pre=communist Chinese culture" was a problem is precisely because of the class interests they represent. Think about Tibet: Buddhism was equated with a feudal class structure, and this was the central reason it was attacked.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Simon E. » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:54 am

Plus of course it’s strategic importance in straddling China and India and the fact that the Tibetan plateau is very rich in minerals.
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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by humble.student » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:57 am

tobes wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 10:52 am

Thanks for clarifying the language question.

As for the other point - from the Marxist point of view the reason "pre=communist Chinese culture" was a problem is precisely because of the class interests they represent. Think about Tibet: Buddhism was equated with a feudal class structure, and this was the central reason it was attacked.
The situation of religion in China proper is hardly comparable to that in Tibet, and while different classes practiced, let's say Buddhism, in a variety of ways, the fact of the matter is that neither the Red Guards nor the struggling masses or whoever were seriously educated in marxian dialectics: they simply swallowed and regurgitated Mao's little red book, and like trained dogs, attacked who they were told to (Jiang Qing's words, not mine).

In other words, everything that was not communistic had to be done away with. Earlier, Mongolia and later, Cambodia, took this notion of the "new man" to even deadlier extremes. There is no need for some sort of political analysis here: monasteries were falling apart and monks were starving, hardly in league with the landlord class, the forces of reaction or the foreign imperialists. Read up on some of the accounts I listed above.

The idea of "class struggle" being applicable to China was refuted by Liang Shuming - one of the rare intellectuals who put his money where his mouth was and went and did something to help others - when he argued that "class" did not correspond to the Chinese idea of clan or family, and would have fratricidal and wholly negative consequences if applied in China.

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Re: How damaging was the Cultural Revolution for Buddhism and Taoism?

Post by Nemo » Tue Sep 03, 2019 10:55 pm

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