Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China

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Paul Williams, Patrice Ladwig
Cambridge University Press, Apr 26, 2012 - Religion - 296 pages
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The centrality of death rituals has rarely been documented in anthropologically informed studies of Buddhism. Bringing together a range of perspectives including ethnographic, textual, historical and theoretically informed accounts, this edited volume presents the diversity of the Buddhist funeral cultures of mainland Southeast Asia and China. While the contributions show that the ideas and ritual practices related to death are continuously transformed in local contexts through political and social changes, they also highlight the continuities of funeral cultures. The studies are based on long-term fieldwork and covering material from Theravāda Buddhism in Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and various regions of Chinese Buddhism, both on the mainland and in the Southeast Asian diasporas. Topics such as bad death, the feeding of ghosts, pollution through death, and the ritual regeneration of life show how Buddhist cultures deal with death as a universal phenomenon of human culture.

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About the author (2012)

Paul Williams is Emeritus Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy and founding co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. He is author of Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd edition (2009), The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence (1998), Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of Bodhicaryāvatāra (1998), The Unexpected Way: On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism (2001) and Songs of Love, Poems of Sadness: The Erotic Verse of the Sixth Dalai Lama (2004). He is co-author, with Anthony Tribe, of Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, 2nd edition (2012) and was sole editor of the eight-volume series Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (2005).

Patrice Ladwig is research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle, Germany) where he works in a research group focusing on historical anthropology. He has published articles in the fields of anthropology, Asian studies and Buddhist studies. He is currently finalizing a monograph entitled Revolutionaries and Reformers in Lao Buddhism and working on an edited volume on Buddhist socialism.

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