Monks in Motion

Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea (forthcoming with Oxford University Press, 2020) 

Chinese Buddhists have never remained stationary. They have always been on the move. Why did Buddhist monks migrate from China to Southeast Asia? How did they participate in transregional Buddhist networks across the South China Sea? In Monks in Motion, Jack Meng-Tat Chia tells a story of monastic connectivity across the South China Sea during the twentieth century. Following in the footsteps of three prominent monks—Chuk Mor (1913–2002), Yen Pei (1917–1996), and Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923–2002)—Chia explores the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and maritime Southeast Asia.

Monks in Motion is the first book to offer a history of what Chia terms “South China Sea Buddhism,” referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and the organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Drawing on multilingual research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, he challenges the conventional categories of “Chinese Buddhism” and “Southeast Asian Buddhism” by focusing on the lesser-known—yet no less significant—Chinese Buddhist communities of maritime Southeast Asia. By crossing the artificial spatial frontier between China and Southeast Asia, Monks in Motion brings Southeast Asia into the study of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism into the study of Southeast Asia.