Anarchy in the pure land: Reinventing the cult of Maitreya in modern Chinese Buddhism

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11 Scopus citations


Anarchy in the Pure Land investigates the cult of Maitreya, the future Buddha, promoted by the Chinese Buddhist reform movement spearheaded by Taixu as an avenue through which to consider the formation of alternative modernities. The cult presents an apparent anomaly: It shows precisely the kind of concern for ritual, supernatural beings, and the afterlife that much scholarship contends the reformers rejected in the name of “modernity.” This book shows that rather than a concession to tradition, the reimagining of ideas and practices associated with Maitreya was an important site for formulating a Buddhist vision of modernity. To make sense of this it develops a new perspective on alternative modernities by drawing on Charles Taylor's notion of moral frameworks, arguing that the cult of Maitreya represents an attempt to articulate a new constellation of values that integrates novel understandings of the good clustered around modern visions of utopia with the central Buddhist value of Buddhahood. Part I traces the roots of this constellation to Taixu's youthful career as an anarchist. Part II examines its articulation in the “Maitreya School's” theology and the cult's development from its inception to World War II. Part III examines its subsequent decline and its contemporary legacy within and beyond orthodox Buddhism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages340
ISBN (Electronic)9780190491161
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Alternative modernities
  • Anarchism
  • Charles Taylor
  • China
  • Humanistic Buddhism
  • Maitreya
  • Taiwan
  • Taixu

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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