Professor and Chair of Asian Languages and Cultures Chi-Chiang Huang has been awarded a grant by the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange to support his project, “The Buddhist Family Named Shi – The Elite Family’s Patronage of Buddhism in the Southern Song.” When complete, the work will be a book-length monograph.
The project aims to study an outstanding “Buddhist family” among elite families in the Southern Song, the period from 1127 to 1279, after the ruling Song Dynasty lost control of northern China. Huang will focus on the most powerful clan named “Shi,” its association with monasteries, and the interaction between the Shi family kinsmen and clerics.
Huang will travel to China and Japan later this summer to mine data in libraries and archives. Using these, as well as many as yet untapped sources including some non-canonical Buddhist texts that he discovered, recently available local gazetteers, and newly-discovered family genealogies and steles, Huang will assert the formation of a prominent “Buddhist family.”
“By examining the family’s multi-generation patronage of and piety towards Buddhism, I will reveal the family’s association with Buddhist monasteries and monks, the power and importance of this family as a Buddhist family, and the impact of this Buddhist family on Buddhist monastic order and life in the Southern Song,” explains Huang.
In his project abstract, Huang writes the Shi family was known to have produced three prime ministers and two princes, and boasted of 72 jinshi degree holders during the Southern Song. (Jinshi degrees were used in the selection of administrative officials in Imperial China.) As such, he notes, the family exerted insurmountable political influences on the Southern Song court and state and was instrumental in boosting the influences of both New-Confucianism and Buddhism. The family was not without controversy, particularly surrounding some family members’ entrenched political power, thus rendering the family unpopular among eminent bureaucrats and literati. However, despite partisan hostility at court the Shi family enjoyed considerable notoriety among clerics because of its prolonged prominence in public life.
Huang writes, “Its steadfast and pious dedication to Chan/Zen monks in early Southern Song, when the family attained prominence, led to the multi-generation patronage of Buddhism and the formation of the Buddhist family outside the Buddhist order.”
“This helped facilitate the growth and flourishing of some monasteries and their Chan/Zen abbots, which in turn enabled unity and cohesion among clerics of these monasteries,” explains Huang. “The elite Buddhist family and the putative monastic family thus mutually benefited from each other.”
A member of the faculty since 1987, Huang specializes in Chinese history and culture, the history of Chinese Buddhism, and Buddhist literature. He earned his B.A. in History from the National Taiwan University, and his M.A. in History from the Graduate Institute for the Study of History, National Taiwan University. He obtained his Ph.D. in Chinese History from the University of Arizona. His most recent articles are: “The Southern Song Calligrapher Zhang Jizhi (1186-1266) and His Association with Buddhist Monks,” Journal of Chinese Studies (December, 2008), pp. 133-166; and “The Interaction between Southern Song Poet-Monks and Literati-Revisit the Zhongxing Chan-lin feng-yue ji,” Chinese Culture Quarterly, vol. 6:3 (Fall 2008), pp.53-120. He is currently working on a number of books and articles on the subjects of Buddhism and the Southern Song.