Mingfeng WU, M.A.

Engaging the Secular in a Shared Future: The Confucian-Buddhist Debate and Modern Chinese Buddhist Thought

© RUB, Marquard

This project aims to contribute to the EAF program’s objectives by examining the Confucian-Buddhist debate and modem Chinese Buddhist thought in the context of the conceptions of the future in East Asia. Specifically, this study will explore how the Confucian-Buddhist debate has shaped modern Buddhist writing in China, influencing scholars’ thinking about self and society, the relationship between Buddhism and modern society, and the interpretation of Buddhist texts. Modern Buddhist writings from the 20th century often feature comparisons between Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as integrations of their respective ideologies. Through these efforts, Buddhists have sought to offer a path towards enlightenment that is applicable to a secular society. Hence, to understand how Buddhist scholars view the relationship between individuals and society in modern times, we must examine the ideological context of the Confucian-Buddhist controversy.

The views about and conceptualizations of the future at personal, national, and global levels will be analyzed through the lenses of language, religion, and ideology, and the carriers of future conceptions, including individuals, groups, and larger collectives. Through this research, I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of ideas of political participation, nationalism, and egalitarianism in East Asia over the twentieth century, and demonstrate how self-identity and social class influenced views of the future and informed the role of Buddhism in shaping the future.