Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia explores the long relationship
between Buddhism and the state in premodern times and seeks to counter
the modern, secularist notion that Buddhism, as a religion, is
inherently apolitical. By revealing the methods by which members of
Buddhist communities across premodern East Asia related to imperial
rule, this volume offers case studies of how Buddhists, their texts,
material culture, ideas, and institutions legitimated rulers and
defended regimes across the region.
The volume also reveals a history of Buddhist writing, protest, and rebellion against the state.
Contributors are Stephanie Balkwill, James A. Benn, Megan Bryson, Gregory N. Evon, Geoffrey C. Goble, Richard D. McBride II, and Jacqueline I. Stone.
This paper connects the visual depictions of Dali Kingdom 大理 (937–1253) rulers in the Dali-produced Painting of Buddhist Images (Fanxiang juan 梵像卷) with traditions of imperial support and legitimation connected to the Scripture for Humane Kings (Renwang jing
仁王經), a text that was integral to the state-protection Buddhism of the
Chinese Tang (618–907) dynasty. Arguing that the expression of the Dali
rulers in the painting as “Humane Kings” served to elevate the status of
the Dali ruler over and above that of the Chinese Song 宋 dynasty
(960–1279) ruler, the study shows how procedures of Buddhist statecraft
are constructed in hybrid and regionally-specific ways in order to serve
localized political narratives and programs of state legitimation.
Specifically, in the case of Dali, such procedures allowed for the
independent assertion of imperial authority and cultural distinctiveness
against the backdrop of China.