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Alternative Alliances: The Haichuang Temple in Guangzhou as a Local, Regional, and Transnational Platform of Cultural Exchange, 1650-1850

Sun, June 26, 3:00 to 4:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 106

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


This panel focuses a hitherto neglected key institution in the cultural, political, and commercial life of late imperial South China that also had a notable transnational impact on the representation of Chinese culture in South East Asia, Europe, and the U.S. as well. A major center of Chan Buddhist learning with a strong emphasis on monastic discipline, the Haichuang Temple prided itself on its output of Buddhist works under successive generations of poet-monks from the 1650s onward. Cultivating close ties to the late Ming Buddhist revival in the Jiangnan region, the temple had strong Ming loyalists roots that led to periodic confrontations with the Qing state at least through Qianlong’s reign. Patronized by Cantonese maritime merchants, scholar-officials, and literati, the temple nevertheless expanded steadily and attained the status of a major tourist and recreational destination featured in hundreds of poems. Starting no later than the 1790s, the Haichuang Temple began to fill the intercultural vacuum left by the demise of the Jesuit mission in Beijing. Not only were the temple’s premises requisitioned as lodgings for the Macartney and Amherst missions, but it was also designated as a one of the few excursion spot for Westerner sojourners. The Haichuang clergy seized upon these foreign visitors to pursue agendas of their own as they offered hospitality, free books, and other assistance to their foreign guests often in defiance of official government policy. This panel will examine how the Haichuang Temple brokered alternative approaches to state-society relations both domestically and transnationally.

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