Architects of Buddhist LeisureSocially Disengaged Buddhism in Asia's Museums, Monuments, and Amusement Parks

Architects of Buddhist LeisureSocially Disengaged Buddhism in Asia's Museums, Monuments, and Amusement Parks

Justin Thomas McDaniel

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780824865986

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

Buddhism, usually described as an austere religion which condemns desire, promotes denial, and idealizes the monastic and contemplative life, actually has a thriving leisure culture. Creative religious improvisations designed by Buddhists across Asia have worked to build a leisure culture both within and outside of monasteries. The author looks at the growth of Buddhist leisure culture through a study of architects who helped design tourist sites, memorial gardens, monuments, museums, and even amusement parks in Nepal, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. In conversation with theorists of material and visual culture and anthropologists of art, this book argues that these sites show the importance of public, leisure and spectacle culture from a Buddhist cultural perspective. They show that the “secular” and “religious” and the “public” and “private” are in many ways false binaries. Moreover, many of these sites reflect a growing Buddhist ecumenism being built through repetitive affective encounters instead of didactic sermons, institutional campaigns, and sectarian developments. These sites present different Buddhist traditions, images, and aesthetic expressions as united but not uniform, collected but not concise—a gathering not a movement. Finally, despite the creativity of lay and ordained visionaries, the building of these sites often faces problems along the way. Parks, monuments, temples, and museums are complex adaptive systems changed and influenced by visitors, budgets, materials, local and global economic conditions. No matter what the architect intends, buildings develop lives of their own.