• Who was “Central” in the History of Chinese Buddhism? : A Social Network Approach

    Marcus Bingenheimer (see profile)
    Buddhist Studies, Digital Humanities East Asia
    Buddhism--Study and teaching, Buddhism, China, Social networks
    Item Type:
    Buddhist studies, Chinese Buddhism
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    Hidden in the Buddhist biographical literature on eminent monks is a large amount of information about who knew whom. It is especially rich for the time between 300 and 1000 CE, when the four major collections of “Biographies of Eminent Monks” (gaoseng zhuan) allow us to date and locate the relationships of individuals to a degree unimaginable for the religious history of Europe or India in that period. Using open data from the Gaoseng Zhuan projects conducted between 2007 and 2012 at Dharma Drum Mountain, Taiwan, this article applies centrality measures to identify key players in the currently available data. The dataset connects actors with places and other actors; often connections can be dated. The version of the large, undirected network used here contains ca. 6,500 actors and ca. 13,000 links. The largest component contains ca. 5,500 actors connected by ca. 10,000 links. Comparing the set of key players based on Degree Centrality with those indicated by Betweenness Centrality, a meaningful constellation appears. Degree based centrality yields a list of translators and important patrons. Translation teams constitute cliques that contribute to the high degree value of their leader. Imperial patrons interface with monastic leaders as well as with the secular domain, moreover, records of such interactions are privileged in the sources. Betweenness Centrality, on the other hand, yields famous Chan masters of the late Tang and early Song Dynasty. This reflects both the rising importance of the lineage paradigm in Chinese Buddhist historiography as well as the seminal position of these figures between earlier and later forms of Chinese Buddhism
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    4 years ago
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