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Buddhism and Buddhists in China Kindle Edition
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Written by an American Christian 'missionary' the report has an editorial bias but that is to be expected and is quite restrained. This is not polemical, not a bigoted rant. The author's portrait of Buddhism is filled with respect and admiration and as a result his Christianity comes across as edifying too. I don't think this is a 'religious book' and you do not have to be either a Christian or a Buddhist to enjoy it. It strikes me as being more of an ethnography or a travelogue. If you are interested in people, in human nature, then I think it will appeal to you.
It reads like an extended series of articles in a broadsheet newspaper - each short chapter is well structured, written in a clear, engaging style, and full of fascinating illustrations whether vignettes drawn from the author's personal experiences, quotes from Chinese literature, stories from folklore, or near verbatim descriptions of conversations with 'representative' Buddhists.
The author was discussing his world and looking ahead but we can now read him as an historical source. I was intrigued by his discussion of e.g. Japanese Buddhist missinaries opening schools, hospitals etc in China as part of a wider campaign to assert Japan's status as the 'great power' in Asia - how that relates to Japanese militarism in following decades is a question I'd love to pursue further. I was also intrigued by the examples of 'Christian Buddhism' or 'Buddhist Christianity' described by the author e.g. Buddhist monks who vowed to follow Christ and promote his worship while remaining Buddhists. What a contrast that makes to the contemporary situation where sectarianism is so much more common (e.g. Buddhist/Muslim violence in Sri Lanka, Burma, Indonesia) or the attitude of contemporary Western Buddhists, many of whom seem more likely to denigrate and vituperate Christianity than embrace it as a part of their Buddhism).
Verdict: It is free and it is a gem. This is a mine of historical information that is simply not available to most people by any other means (unless they have access to historical archives, can read Oriental languages, and can spend time rooting through dusty papers for nuggets of useful information). Read it if you enjoy religious studies, ethnography, or history.
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