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Chapter 9 - Searching for Chan Buddhism after Mao

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

John D. Barbour
Affiliation:
St Olaf College, Minnesota
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Summary

In the aftermath of China’s traumatic Cultural Revolution, Western travelers have searched for the remnants of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Gretel Ehrlich’s Questions of Heaven documents her unhappy tour of sacred mountains and other religious sites and practices in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces and her search for traditional arts and music. George Crane’s Bones of the Master depicts a pilgrimage with an exiled Chan monk to find the bones of his spiritual mentor and build a stupa to honor him. Bill Porter’s Road to Heaven recounts his search for Chinese hermits who seem to have abandoned every attachment to a social self. Porter’s Zen Baggage documents a pilgrimage to sites connected to the first six patriarchs of Chan Buddhism and his attempts to discard “baggage,” that is, attachments. Because of Chan’s suspicion of talk about oneself and because these authors focus more on documenting conditions in China than on self-disclosure, they are guarded or discreet about how their journeys affected them. Yet each shows how a Chinese journey initiated a transformed sense of self.

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Journeys of Transformation
Searching for No-Self in Western Buddhist Travel Narratives
, pp. 243 - 269
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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