BOOK LAUNCH – Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea

Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea
Jack Meng-Tat Chia
Oxford University Press, 2020


Date: Thursday, 25 February 2021

Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Venue: The Pod, Level 16, National Library Building, 100 Victoria St, Singapore 188064

Organizers: Singapore Research Nexus and Belt and Road Initiative Research Cluster, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

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6:30 pm Registration/Refreshments/Book Sale
7:00 pm Welcome Remarks by Associate Professor Ja Ian Chong (NUS Political Science)
7:05 pm Presentation by Assistant Professor Jack Meng-Tat Chia (NUS History)
7:40 pm Presentation by Professor Kenneth Dean (NUS Chinese Studies)
8:00 pm Q & A/Discussion, Moderated by Associate Professor Ja Ian Chong (NUS Political Science)
8:30 pm Book Sale with Autograph Signing

About the Book

Chinese Buddhists have never remained stationary. They have always been on the move. In Monks in Motion, Jack Meng-Tat Chia explores why Buddhist monks migrated from China to Southeast Asia, and how they participated in transregional Buddhist networks across the South China Sea. This book tells the story of three prominent monks Chuk Mor (1913-2002), Yen Pei (1917-1996), and Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002) and examines the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and maritime Southeast Asia in the twentieth century.

Monks in Motion is the first book to offer a history of what Chia terms “South China Sea Buddhism,” referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and the organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Drawing on multilingual research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Chia challenges the conventional categories of “Chinese Buddhism” and “Southeast Asian Buddhism” by focusing on the lesser-known–yet no less significant–Chinese Buddhist communities of maritime Southeast Asia. By crossing the artificial spatial frontier between China and Southeast Asia, Monks in Motion breaks new ground, bringing Southeast Asia into the study of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism into the study of Southeast Asia.

About the Speakers

Jack Meng-Tat Chia is Assistant Professor of History and Religious Studies at the National University of Singapore. His research focuses on Buddhism in maritime Southeast Asia, Buddhist modernism, Chinese popular religion, and Southeast Asia-China interactions. His first book, Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea (Oxford UP, 2020), explores the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and Southeast Asia in the twentieth century. He is co-editor of Living with Myths in Singapore (Ethos, 2017) and has published articles in journals such as Asian Ethnology, China Quarterly, Contemporary Buddhism, History of Religions, and Journal of Chinese Religions. He is currently working on two book projects: Beyond the Borobudur: Buddhism in Postcolonial Indonesia and Dharma Crossings: Long Gen and the Making of Nanyang Buddhism.


ja ian chong

Ja Ian Chong is Associate Professor at the NUS Department of Political Science and Chair of the new Belt and Road Initiative Research Cluster at the FASS Research Division. The focus of his teaching and research is on international relations, especially IR theory, security, Chinese foreign policy, and international relations in the Asia-Pacific. Of particular interest to him are issues that stand at the nexus of international and domestic politics, such as influences on nationalism and the consequences of major power competition on the domestic politics of third countries. A/P Chong is author of External Intervention and the Politics of State Formation — China, Indonesia, Thailand, 1893-1952 (Cambridge, 2012), which received the 2013 Best Book Award from the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association. He was a Harvard-Yenching Visiting Scholar in 2019-2020.


Kenneth Dean

Kenneth Dean is Professor and Head at the NUS Department of Chinese Studies. His research interests include Daoist studies, Chinese popular religion, popular culture and Chinese literature. He is the author of numerous books on Daoism and Chinese popular religion, including Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plains: Vol. 1: Historical Introduction to the Return of the Gods, Vol. 2: A survey of village temples and ritual activities (with Zheng Zhenman) (Brill, 2010); Lord of the Three in One: The spread of a cult in Southeast China (Princeton, 1998), Taoist Ritual and Popular Cults of Southeast China (Princeton, 1993); as well as First and Last Emperors: The Absolute State and the Body of the Despot (with Brian Massumi) (Autonomedia, 1992). He also gathered and edited Epigraphical Materials on the History of Religion in Fujian: Xinghua Region (1 vol., 1995); Quanzhou Region (3 vols, 2004) with Zheng Zhenman. He recently authored Chinese Epigraphy in Singapore, 1819-1911, Volumes 1 & 2 (2017, with Hue Guan Thye).



We are looking forward to seeing you at the launch!

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