Dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2015)

Martino Dibeltulo Concu
Independent Author
This dissertation considers how Tantrism, a ritual tradition vanished in India and in China, but preserved in modern Japan and Tibet, became a component of the revival of Chinese Buddhism between the two World Wars. Tantrism became appealing to revivalists who, in China’s time of internal war and foreign invasion, sought to recover this lost tradition, writing about its rituals, initiations, and teachings in a nostalgic mode. In Republican China (1912-1949), Tantrism would generate an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, which would be described as the form of Tantrism of the Tibetan nation. In the wake of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, as the Republican government fled the occupied areas, Buddhist scholars and monks gave up their quest to retrieve Tantrism in its Japanese form. Having turned to Tibetan Buddhism, they began to translate the Buddhist scriptures of Tibet. A central figure is the monk and translator Fazun (1902-1980), who translated into Chinese works of Tibetan Buddhism, compiled biographies of Tibetan masters, and wrote histories of Tibetan religious and political institutions. This dissertation shows how Fazun created in China a new and compelling image of Tibetan Buddhism and employed it to urge his contemporaries to reflect on modern Tibet in ways that would both inspire and challenge scholars after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), intellectuals of the PRC have claimed that Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Chinese Buddhism, disregarding previous studies of the Republican era. Drawing upon early-modern to contemporary historical works, periodicals, and memoirs in several languages, this genealogy offers a new perspective on China-Tibet relations.
Keywords Tantra  Tantrism  Tibetan Buddhism  Chinese Buddhism  Modern China  Modern Tibet  Enlightenment Legacies
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