The Sung Dynasty (960 1279) has long been recognized as a major watershed in Chinese history. Although there are recent major monographs on Sung society, government, literature, Confucian thought, and popular religion, the contribution of Buddhism to Sung social and cultural life has been all but ignored. Indeed, the study of Buddhism during the Sung has lagged behind that of other periods of Chinese history. One reason for the neglect of this important aspect of Sung society is undoubtedly the tenacity of the view that the Sung marked the beginning of an inexorable decline of Buddhism in China that extended down through the remainder of the imperial era. As this book attests, however, new research suggests that, far from signaling a decline, the Sung was a period of great efflorescence in Buddhism.
This volume is the first extended scholarly treatment of Buddhism in the Sung to be published in a Western language. It focuses largely on elite figures, elite traditions, and interactions among Buddhists and literati, although some of the book s essays touch on ways in which elite traditions both responded to and helped shape more popular forms of lay practice and piety. All of the chapters in one way or another deal with the two most important elite traditions within Sung Buddhism: Ch an and T ien-t ai. Whereas most previous discussions of Buddhism in the Sung have tended to concentrate on Ch an, the present volume is notable for giving T ien-t ai its due. By presenting a broader and more contextualized picture of these two traditions as they developed in the Sung, this work amply reveals the vitality of Buddhism in the Sung as well as its embeddedness in the social and intellectual life of the time."