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“True Buddhism Is Not Chinese”: Taiwanese Immigrants Defining Buddhist Identity In The United States

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Chapter Summary

Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, this chapter examines how Taiwanese immigrant Buddhists define Buddhism in the United States. It complicates possible understandings of religion?s ?ethnic function? by demonstrating that individuals may use religion to create ethnic boundaries among multiple cleavages and identities. The chapter first discusses the context in which modern Chinese Buddhism emerged in Taiwan. Reformers of Chinese Buddhism deliberately crafted a new Buddhism that would be relevant in modern society. Second, the chapter explains how the distinctive class and religious context of the Taiwanese American ethnic enclave shapes Buddhist discourses. Specifically, it shows that the significant presence of evangelical Christians and highly-educated co-ethnics leads Taiwanese American Buddhists to rearticulate Buddhism in modern, scientific, and western terms. Third, the chapter discusses how the desire to propagate the Buddhist dharma, a foreign faith, in the United States, shapes Buddhist rhetoric among Taiwanese Americans.

Keywords: Buddhist dharma; ethnic function; modern Chinese Buddhism; Taiwanese immigrant Buddhists; United States



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