Reconstructing Buddhist Monasteries in Modern China

This project examines the history of the destruction and reconstruction of Buddhist sacred spaces in modern China, from the aftermath of the Taiping Civil War in the 1860s, to the eve of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. It will inquire why and how these spaces were damaged or destroyed, and will explore how their reconstruction occurred within the context of religious and social history.


Project Components

Survey of Religious Reconstruction in Modern China

This survey, compiled in August 2016 at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, collects data on destruction and reconstruction of religious institutions in ten Chinese counties from 1850 to the 1920s. It includes 423 entries, representing 584 instances of destruction or reconstruction.

Full data available as:
Scott, Gregory, 2016, “Survey of Religious Reconstruction in Modern China”, doi:10.7910/DVN/ZKT6EJ, Harvard Dataverse, V1.


Monograph: Reconstructing Buddhist Monasteries in Modern China

The main product of this project, this will be a completely new research monograph of approximately 250-300 pages. The book will present a history of the social organizations, fundraising, local politics, and artistry surrounding the rebuilding of destroyed or decayed religious spaces. It will establish a historical backdrop of religious destruction and reconstruction during this period, and examine in detail ten to twelve case studies of particular Buddhist sites that were rebuilt.


Virtual Chinese Buddhist Monastery

Developing this resource has long been a dream of mine, as I sought a way of connecting students in Buddhist Studies and Chinese / East Asian Religion courses to the materiality of religion and the experience of moving through a sacred space. Students and researchers will be able to access this resource online and engage in self-directed exploration and learning, as they experience moving through a Buddhist sacred site and make use of the scholarly commentary supplied therein.

The Virtual Chinese Buddhist Monastery Project, Konghua Monastery 空化寺, is a digital recreation of a Buddhist monastic complex, including its surrounding landscape, buildings, artwork, and other features. Students, researchers, and the public will be able to explore the site and interact with different aspects of the monastery, actively playing a role in reconstructing it and learning about Chinese Buddhist material culture in the process.

Konghua Monastery is being designed based on historical architectural plans and artwork, but represents no on historical site; instead the intent is to recreate a generic representation of important features. The project is being built in Unreal Engine 4, and will be made available for free on a number of platforms.

See my Youtube Channel for preview videos of Konghua Monastery.