From Comrades to Bodhisattvas is the first book-length study of Han Chinese Buddhism in post-Mao China. Supported by over a decade of ethnographic research, it provides an intimate portrait of lay Buddhist practitioners in Beijing who have embraced a religion that they were once socialized to see as harmful superstition. The book focuses on the lively debates that take place among these new practitioners in an unused courtyard of a Beijing temple, where laypersons gather to listen to the fiery sermons of charismatic preachers, and seek solutions to personal moral crises.
Spurred on by the lessons of the preachers and stories in the media, these courtyard practitioners inventively combine moral elements from China's Maoist past with Buddhist teachings on the workings of karma and the importance of universal compassion. Their aim is to articulate a moral antidote to what they see as blind obsession with consumption and wealth accumulation among twenty-first-century Chinese.
Full of engaging descriptions of the real lives of practicing lay Buddhists, From Comrades to Bodhisattvas will interest specialists in Chinese Buddhism, anthropologists of contemporary Asia, and all scholars interested in the relationship between religion and cultural change.