The present research has three aims. The first is to explore how far extant monastic institutions maintain a sense of continuity vis-à-vis the three above-mentioned historical codices, in both theory and practice. While various academic studies have focused on the translation of Buddhist monastic rules, or investigated their impact in historical contexts (e.g., Heirman 2002; Hirakawa 1982; Horner 1957; Kabilsingh 1984; Shih Nengrong 2003; Yifa 2002), present-day Buddhists’ experience of monastic guidelines has rarely been studied. I intend to greatly extend our understanding of how vinaya precepts, bodhisattva precepts and qinggui are interpreted and practised by the modern Buddhist saṃgha in contemporary Taiwan and Mainland China.
My second aim is to investigate how these traditional codes (with a particular focus on vinaya rules) are being adapted to specific local Chinese contexts and/or a Chinese cultural ethos by modern Buddhist institutions. It is important to bear in mind that the Buddhist precepts were compiled in Ancient India, a context dramatically different from contemporary Chinese conditions – even monastic ones. Therefore, it is worth examining whether Chinese nuns experience difficulties in observing particular precepts due to socio-cultural factors, and the extent to which they utilise alterative adaption in observing rules.
My third aim is to investigate whether there are nuanced differences in the interpretation or practice of precepts between various institutions, and/or between Taiwan and Mainland China. While Buddhists in these two regions both follow the same tradition of Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhism, their differing socio-political contexts and the timing of their respective Buddhist revivals13 should be expected to lead to significant differences in this regard. Nevertheless, dissimilarities between contemporary monastic institutions on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have rarely been touched upon in prior scholarly work.