Demystifying Chinese Vegetarian Halls: The Esoteric Tradition of Sino-Southeast Asian Religion


About the Lecture

Few people associate the Halls of Guanyin (Guanyin tang) in Southeast Asia with the esoteric and syncretic Chinese religious sect known as the Way of Former Heaven (Xiantian Dao). More often than not, the Halls of Guanyin are Vegetarian Halls that were established in the late 19th to early 20th century by the sect’s respective Great Masters or resident-members. Although sectarian Masters were largely males, the upkeep of these halls were usually maintained by women. Understood as a lay Buddhist movement and localised as “Buddhism of the Former Heaven” (xiantian fojiao), Vegetarian Halls allow us to explore a unique and tangible expression of Buddhism and its entrenchment in the organic religious environments of Southeast Asia. This public seminar will explore the religious network of Chinese Vegetarian Halls in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It will focus on their lineage, the gender dimension and texts. It will seek to link this group of Vegetarian Halls and temples to the larger landscape of the early Chinese community in Southeast Asia.

About the Speaker

Dr. Show Ying Ruo is a Visiting Fellow at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Dr Show did her B.A in Chinese Literature at Fudan University, Shanghai, and her M.A in Sinology at SOAS, London. She obtained her PhD in Chinese Studies from the National University of Singapore in 2017 with a research focus on the Chinese Precious Scrolls scriptures from the premodern period. She is currently converting a chapter of her thesis into a book-length monograph which examines Chinese religious sect-affiliated Vegetarian Halls in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Her research interests are gender and religion, the Three Teachings (sanjiao; Sam Kauw; Tridharma) and Buddhism in Southeast Asia.


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Apr 23 2018


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2