Forum Explores Influence of Chinese Chan Culture in Belt and Road Initiative Discussions

The Buddhist Channel, October 28, 2023

Suizhou, Hubei (China) -- The recent "Dahong Mountain Forum: The Overseas Spread and Influence of Chinese Chan Culture" convened on October 19-20 in Suizhou, Hubei province, attracting global attention from religious and academic communities both within China and abroad.

Initiated by Master Yinshun, the vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China, the forum marks the inaugural event in the "Silk Road Illumination: Exploring the Footprints of Chinese Civilization" series. The primary aim was to facilitate cross-cultural exchanges, particularly in the promotion of Chinese Chan culture, known as Zen, on an international platform.

Yinshun, who presides as the abbot of the Ci’en Temple at Dahong Mountain in Suizhou, emphasized the forum's historical significance in fostering in-depth exchanges among Buddhist communities of nations engaged in the Belt and Road Initiative amidst a rapidly evolving world.

Established a decade ago, the Belt and Road Initiative prioritizes people-to-people connectivity and the dialogue of civilizations among participating countries. It advocates for the strengthening of multilateral cooperation in the cultural domain.

"We should strengthen platforms for Buddhist culture, engage in dialogues between civilizations, conduct extensive research on Dahong Mountain's Chan culture, and further the global outreach and understanding of Chinese Chan culture," emphasized Yinshun.

The forum brought together a distinguished assembly of experts and scholars from over 20 prominent Chinese universities, research institutions, and representatives from Hong Kong, Macao, as well as several foreign countries including Japan, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

Divided into sub-forums, the event's discussions focused on researching historical materials of Dahong Mountain Chan Buddhism, examining the history of Chan Buddhism's global communication, and evaluating its present international status. Dozens of high-quality speeches and papers were presented, enriching the understanding and appreciation of Chinese Chan culture.

Insights provided by scholars like Chen Xi from Wuhan University delved into the evolution of Buddhism at Dahong Mountain during the Song Dynasty, emphasizing its influence on the Caodong sect, which resonates in present-day Soto sect practices in Japan.

Liu Luming from Nanjing University highlighted the broad influence of Chan Buddhism in various spheres such as philosophy, literature, ethics, and natural sciences, contributing to a diverse cultural heritage in China.

International representatives, including Hanaho Hiroaki from Japan and Alan Macfarlane from the University of Cambridge, emphasized the philosophical depth of Buddhism and its potential for fostering a more tolerant and loving world.

The forum received accolades for fostering consensus, friendship, and mutual exchange. It also hosted 20 student monks from Cambodia and Nepal, who eagerly engaged in discussions and learned from the research findings about the historical evolution and influence of Chinese Chan culture.

One of the student representatives, Phan Pouyseng from Cambodia, expressed his aspiration to become an ambassador for the exchange of Buddhist culture and Chan Buddhism between nations after attending the forum.

The event was not only an intellectual gathering but also a cultural journey, as students embarked on a five-day tour visiting temples, museums, and landmark buildings in Sanya, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Suizhou.

Master Yinshun encapsulated the forum's essence, expressing the collective aspiration to illuminate the light of Chinese Chan culture and world civilization by amalgamating the wisdom of various nations and the three major Buddhist language systems.

The "Dahong Mountain Forum" marked a crucial step in advancing the dialogue and dissemination of Chinese Chan culture, reinforcing cultural exchange and understanding among nations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
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