Conspicuous Dharma: Han Chinese Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism in the PRC

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Lecture by John Osburg, University of Rochester

Public Lecture Series: Transformations and Innovations of Chinese Cultural Tradition in the Era of New Media

Partially supported by the Education Section of the Chinese Consulate-General in Los Angeles and Dacheng Law Offices.

In the context of a perceived spiritual and moral crisis in Chinese society, growing numbers of Han Chinese are turning to Tibetan Buddhism for ethical guidance. This talk is based on an ethnographic study of a group of wealthy, urban Han Chinese who have become followers of Tibetan Buddhism and patrons of reincarnated lamas and charismatic Tibetan monks. I will examine the sources of the appeal of Tibetan Buddhism for wealthy Chinese and the range of ways in which they integrate Buddhist principles and ritual practice into their lives. For some, donations to monks serve as a form of “spiritual protection money” that will safeguard their businesses and enhance their careers, while for others Buddhist principles become the basis for dramatic moral and social transformation.

John Osburg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Rochester, USA. His is the author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich (Stanford, 2013). His research interests include morality, political corruption, gender and sexuality, and spirituality in contemporary China. His current research examines wealthy Han Chinese who have become followers and patrons of Tibetan Buddhism.
Sponsor(s): Center for Buddhist Studies, Center for Chinese Studies

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Published: Thursday, March 10, 2016