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Marcus Bingenheimer, Buddhist Pilgrimage in the Late Qing - Itinerary networks in "Knowing the Paths of Pilgrimage" (c.1827) and "Records of Travels to Famous mountains" (c.1918)

Friday, February 17, 2017 - 12:00pm

Williams Hall 844

In the early 19th century Ruhai Xiancheng 如海顯承 (fl. 1800-1826) wrote a route book describing itineraries to China's most popular pilgrimage sites for the use of his fellow monks: "Knowing the Paths of Pilgrimage"  (Canxue zhijin 參學知津). The book is a rare source for the travel routes of Buddhists in late imperial times as it describes, station by station, 56 pilgrimage itineraries all over China, many converging on famous mountains, temples, or urban centers.

Its prefaces and essays complement this practical information by explaining why and how 19th century monks went on pilgrimage. Although the text was published without maps, the main stations for each route have now been geo-referenced, so that maps of the pilgrimage network can be produced.

Another, much better known, source for pilgrimage in the late Qing is "Records of Travels to Famous mountains" (Mingshan youfang ji 名山遊訪記) by Gao Henian 高鶴年 (1872-1962). It describes a similar number of routes (53), but contains more detailed information about the interactions of Gao with his monastic friends and preceptors. Comparing the itineraries of the two texts shows that while the destinations of Buddhist pilgrims did not differ all that much between the early 19th and the early 20th centuries, some single routes changed considerably with the arrival of new modes of transport.

Marcus Bingenheimer 馬德偉 was born in Germany. He obtained an MA (Sinology) and Dr.phil (History of Religions) from Würzburg University and an MA (Communication Studies) from Nagoya University. Marcus currently works as Assistant Professor at Temple University, Philadelphia. From 2005 to 2011 he taught Buddhism and Digital Humanities at Dharma Drum 法鼓山, Taiwan, where he also supervised various projects concerning the digitization of Buddhist culture.

His main research interests are the history of Buddhism in East Asia and early Buddhist sutra literature. Currently, he is working on two very different kinds of texts: Āgama literature and Ming-Qing dynasty temple gazetteers. Next to that, Marcus is interested in the Digital Humanities and how to do research in the age of digital information.