The origin of Taiwan’s Buddhism dates back more than 300 years, to the time when Han Chinese began immigrating to Taiwan during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.

Chiang Tsan-teng, a historian of Taiwanese Buddhism, subdivides the earlier forms of Buddhism in Taiwan into “meditative Buddhism,” emanating from Chan (Zen) monasteries, and “incense-and-candles Buddhism,” centered on ordinary people’s sacrifices and prayers for good fortune.

It was the latter which flourished in the temples of Taiwan’s western plains during the Qing dynasty, becoming the main form of Buddhism practiced in the frontier territory, according to Chiang.

The lifting of martial law in 1987 and the promulgation of the Organic Act of Civil Organizations initiated the third phase of Taiwan’s postwar Buddhist development.

After citizens were allowed to travel across the strait, either to visit relatives or for tourism, the hegemony of the government-backed Buddhist Association of the Republic of China declined, and a more equitable, pluralist propagation of dharma teaching emerged, said Chiang. Restoration of cross-strait exchanges meant indigenous Buddhism was reinfused with developments in mainland China and geared toward a new direction, he added.

Among the meditative and spiritual practices followed today, of particular note are the various schools disseminated by Tibetan monks in exile, as well as the teachings of Burmese, Sri Lankan and Thai teachers who have made their way to Taiwan, according to Chiang.

Buddhist Study

Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts

Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, A Unique Learning Environment – Integrating Academic Research, Scriptural Study and Buddhist Practice

Open to monastics and lay people alike, the department of Buddhist Studies is located at the heart of the Dharma Drum World Center for Buddhist Education. Programs offered include bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Buddhist Studies accredited by the Republic of China’s Ministry of Education.

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