LRCCS Noon Lecture Series | The Power of “No” in Buddhist China: Refusal and Achievement in the Lives of the Monk-Artists Kuncan (1612-ca. 1675) and Hongyi (1880-1942)
In human social life, in whatever domain of activity, the ability to say no may be rare, yet for some it is fundamental to survival. And “no” to one thing of course usually implies “yes” to something else. This talk considers the pivotal role of refusal in the lives of two very fascinating Buddhist figures in Chinese cultural history: the seventeenth-century Chan master and painter Kuncan , and the multi-talented twentieth-century Vinaya master and pure land practitioner Hongyi . Would there be a “Kuncan” or a “Hongyi,” these two exceptional figures still remembered today, had they not made use of the power of “no”?
Raoul Birnbaum is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he also holds both the Rebele Endowed Chair in History of Art & Visual Culture and the Gary Lick Memorial Chair at Cowell College (2015-2018). His early scholarship focused on Buddhist “deity”cults – the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and guardian figures – in Chinese Buddhist worlds, and also the great mountain pilgrimage centers that have defined territorial flows in Buddhist China. His present on-going research projects focus on major Buddhist figures of the Republican period, especially Hongyi, and their late seventeenth-century predecessors.