Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2022) | Viewed by 13686

Special Issue Editor


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA
Interests: Buddhist studies; digital humanities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The thematic focus of this Special Issue is on the study of historical networks in Chinese religion with the help of a network analysis. Though most articles focus on topics related to Buddhism, we were also able to include papers on Chinese spirit writing and Confucianism. A historical network analysis is a method that uses metrics and visualization techniques from graph theory to deepen our understanding of the past. Increasingly, over the last three decades, historical sources have been digitized and aggregated. There is a growing number of datasets that enable us to apply network analyses and reveal patterns that can corroborate or contradict existing historical narratives. Although the term "network" is often used in the study of religion, there have been few efforts to utilize the recent advances in data and the availability of tools to apply formal network analyses to the field. Articles highlight methodological approaches, including data collection, evaluation, and the contributions (or failures) of quantitative metrics in historical research.

The datasets used in the seven articles in this Special Issue have been made available as a single archive at a Zenodo repository: https://zenodo.org/records/10004109 (accessed 30-11-2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10004109.

Dr. Marcus Bingenheimer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • network analysis
  • social networks
  • historical network analysis
  • Buddhist studies

Published Papers (8 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Editorial

Jump to: Research

6 pages, 751 KiB  
Editorial
Special Issue “Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion”—Introduction
by Marcus Bingenheimer
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1543; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121543 - 15 Dec 2023
Viewed by 831
Abstract
The seven articles in this Special Issue use historical network analysis to investigate aspects of Chinese religious traditions [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

15 pages, 6723 KiB  
Article
Observations on the Intertextuality of Selected Abhidharma Texts Preserved in Chinese Translation
by Sebastian Nehrdich
Religions 2023, 14(7), 911; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070911 - 14 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1260
Abstract
Textual reuse is a fundamental characteristic of traditional Buddhist literature preserved in various languages. Given the sheer volume of preserved Buddhist literature and the often-unmarked instances of textual reuse, the thorough analysis and evaluation of this material without computational assistance are virtually impossible. [...] Read more.
Textual reuse is a fundamental characteristic of traditional Buddhist literature preserved in various languages. Given the sheer volume of preserved Buddhist literature and the often-unmarked instances of textual reuse, the thorough analysis and evaluation of this material without computational assistance are virtually impossible. This study investigates the application of computer-aided methods for detecting approximately similar passages within Xuanzang’s translation corpus and a selection of Abhidharma treatises preserved in Chinese translation. It presents visualizations of the generated network graphs and conducts a detailed examination of patterns of textual reuse among selected works within the Abhidharma tradition. This study demonstrates that the general picture of textual reuse within Xuanzang’s translation corpus and the selected Abhidharma texts, based on computational analysis, aligns well with established scholarship. Thus, it provides a robust foundation for conducting more detailed studies on individual text sets. The methods employed in this study to create and analyze citation network graphs can also be applied to other texts preserved in Chinese and, with some modifications, to texts in other languages. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

43 pages, 14343 KiB  
Article
Patterns of Integration: A Network Perspective on Popular Religious Connections in China’s Lower Yangzi, 1150–1350
by Song Chen
Religions 2023, 14(5), 577; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050577 - 26 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1768
Abstract
The spread of cults from their original homelands in the Song dynasty (960–1279) created crisscrossing ties between local communities and fostered social and cultural integration in Chinese society that transcended class and geographic boundaries. Scholars have produced numerous case studies on these translocal [...] Read more.
The spread of cults from their original homelands in the Song dynasty (960–1279) created crisscrossing ties between local communities and fostered social and cultural integration in Chinese society that transcended class and geographic boundaries. Scholars have produced numerous case studies on these translocal cults and their implications, but the pattern of connections across space created by these cults is yet to be explored. Using the data collected from local gazetteers that have survived from the Southern Song and Yuan dynasties, this article takes a bird’s-eye view of the spatial distribution of popular cults in China’s Lower Yangzi region between 1150 and 1350 and employs the method of network analysis to study the pattern of connections formed through these religious ties. It reveals seven statistically significant subregional clusters of popular cults and three complementary mechanisms that tied these clusters together. It argues that integration across space was achieved not only through the spread of a cult and the attendant formation of a unified religious culture, but also through a multitude of less prominent cults which were each confined in their geographical scope of influence but collectively created a crisscrossing web of ties linking one subregional cluster to another. Host to a diversity of popular deities that were each associated with a different subregional cluster, the prefectural seats and the Southern Song capital Lin’an played a critical role in the social and cultural integration by providing a welcoming meeting ground for divergent communities of devotees. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

22 pages, 2470 KiB  
Article
Realizing the “Outwardly Regal” Vision in the Midst of Political Inactivity: A Study of the Epistolary Networks of Li Gang 李綱 (1083–1140) and Sun Di 孫覿 (1081–1169)
by Ming-Kin Chu
Religions 2023, 14(3), 389; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030389 - 14 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1152
Abstract
How did politically inactive members of the Song literati attempt to realize the Confucian “outwardly regal” vision by putting their political ideal into practice? To what extent did their social networks play a role in this process? This paper aims to examine these [...] Read more.
How did politically inactive members of the Song literati attempt to realize the Confucian “outwardly regal” vision by putting their political ideal into practice? To what extent did their social networks play a role in this process? This paper aims to examine these questions via a comprehensive investigation of the writings of two prominent political and literary figures who experienced the Northern–Southern Song transition, Sun Di 孫覿 (1081–1169) and Li Gang 李綱 (1083–1140). A close examination of the letters written to senior court officials by these figures during their periods of political inactivity reveals not only these writers’ political agendas but also their attempts to exert influence in the political arena—a manifestation of the “outwardly regal” notion—via their epistolary networks. Despite the fact that Li has been highly praised while Sun has been widely condemned by posterity, the two men employed similar strategies to curry favor with senior court officials, who turned out to be potential patrons and facilitated the subsequent political rehabilitations of these two men. Sun Di’s and Li Gang’s eagerness to resume public service indicates the opportunistic motives underlying their epistolary exchanges and the ungenuine claims of disinterest in the politics expressed therein. Such claims, I would argue, are rhetorical conventions that the two men employed to present themselves as virtuous Confucian gentlemen who continued to cultivate “a sage inside” even when they lacked the opportunity to exercise the “outwardly regal” vision. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

19 pages, 5144 KiB  
Article
Regional Buddhist Communities in Tang China and Their Social Networks: The Network of Master Fayun (?–766)
by Anna Sokolova
Religions 2023, 14(3), 335; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030335 - 02 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1835
Abstract
This paper investigates the formation of monastic networks in Tang Dynasty (618–907) China, focusing primarily on the Buddhist traditions of Tiantai, Chan and Vinaya, which have yet to be explored as a series of related regional movements. Central to this effort is a [...] Read more.
This paper investigates the formation of monastic networks in Tang Dynasty (618–907) China, focusing primarily on the Buddhist traditions of Tiantai, Chan and Vinaya, which have yet to be explored as a series of related regional movements. Central to this effort is a dataset that documents over 2000 interactions between some 700 actors that were extracted from stelae inscriptions, monastic biographical collections, historical accounts, letters, and poems. The network data show two clear patterns in the organization of regional Buddhist communities: (1) individual actors bridged cliques of monastics and officials; (2) both monastics and officials contributed to network activities. To illustrate these two patterns, this paper focuses on the ego-network of Fayun 法雲 (?–766), a prominent Vinaya leader based in Jiangsu region, as an example of the formation and evolution of regional Buddhist communities in southern China. Degree centrality indicates that Fayun was one of the central figures in the southern Buddhist landscape of the early eighth century. By tracing his heterogeneous ties with prominent state officials, local authorities, and monastics affiliated with the Tiantai, Chan, and Vinaya traditions, this study outlines general patterns in the formation and legitimization of regional Buddhist communities in Tang China. All three traditions are revealed as intersecting social formations that were sustained through shared ties with local and nationally prominent bureaucrats. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 15712 KiB  
Article
Miyun Yuanwu 密雲圓悟 (1567–1642) and His Impact on 17th-Century Buddhism
by Marcus Bingenheimer
Religions 2023, 14(2), 248; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020248 - 13 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1591
Abstract
This paper relies on the dataset “Historical Social Network of Chinese Buddhism” (Ver. 2021-06). The focus is on the period between c. 1570 and 1700 CE. We argue that the actor who was most influential for institutional Buddhism in the 17th century was [...] Read more.
This paper relies on the dataset “Historical Social Network of Chinese Buddhism” (Ver. 2021-06). The focus is on the period between c. 1570 and 1700 CE. We argue that the actor who was most influential for institutional Buddhism in the 17th century was not one of the “four great monks of the late Ming” but rather Miyun Yuanwu 密雲圓悟 (1566–1642). The network illustrates how Miyun’s Tiantong branch 天童派 of the Linji School became the dominant Chan lineage in China and beyond. The main results of this study are: (1) the data corroborate the assumption that (at least) monastic Buddhism declined between c. 1420 and 1570. (2) The network view de-emphasizes the importance of the ‘four famous late Ming eminent monks’ for the development of 17th-century Buddhist monasticism. (3) The data align well with a suggestion by Jiang Wu to distinguish two different stages in the development of late Ming Buddhism. The first is characterized by the “late Ming revival,” led by figures such as Yunqi Zhuhong, Zibo Zhenke, and Hanshan Deqing; the second phase is the organization of orthopraxy around the Chan lineage discourse dominated by Miyun Yuanwu and his students. (4) For the 17th century, the network data clearly shows the centrality of Miyun Yuanwu and his network. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

12 pages, 5017 KiB  
Article
The Social Networks of Gods in Late Imperial Spirit-Writing Altars
by Vincent Goossaert
Religions 2023, 14(2), 217; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020217 - 06 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1627
Abstract
The late imperial-educated Chinese interacted with a very large array of gods through various means, especially spirit-writing, for which we have abundant detailed records. While a few prominent gods have been studied in this context, there are currently no comprehensive studies of the [...] Read more.
The late imperial-educated Chinese interacted with a very large array of gods through various means, especially spirit-writing, for which we have abundant detailed records. While a few prominent gods have been studied in this context, there are currently no comprehensive studies of the connections between humans and gods. Using the records of thirteen different spirit-writing altars in various parts of the Chinese world between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, this paper maps the 478 gods involved using standard social network analysis visualizations, and identifies the types of gods that played central roles (connecting many different gods and humans) and those that had fewer, more exclusive sociabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

29 pages, 8227 KiB  
Article
Lineages as Network: A Study of Chan Genealogy in the Zutang ji 祖堂集 Using Social Network Analysis
by Laurent Van Cutsem
Religions 2023, 14(2), 205; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020205 - 02 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1636
Abstract
This paper attempts to examine the genealogical framework of “lamp records” (denglu 燈錄) of the Chan Buddhist tradition using analytical tools and methods of Historical Social Network Analysis (HSNA) and graph theory. As an exploratory study, the primary objectives are to investigate [...] Read more.
This paper attempts to examine the genealogical framework of “lamp records” (denglu 燈錄) of the Chan Buddhist tradition using analytical tools and methods of Historical Social Network Analysis (HSNA) and graph theory. As an exploratory study, the primary objectives are to investigate the possibilities offered by HSNA and visualization tools for research on Chan genealogy in lamp records, explore the benefits of this approach over traditional lineage charts, and reflect on its limitations. The essay focuses on the Chan community portrayed in the Goryeo 高麗 edition of the Zutang ji 祖堂集 (Collection of the Patriarchal Hall; K.1503). It shows that the lineage reportedly stemming from Qingyuan Xingsi 青原行思 (d. ca. 740) and Shitou Xiqian 石頭希遷 (701–791), as well as the branch descending from Tianhuang Daowu 天皇道悟 (748–807) to Xuefeng Yicun 雪峰義存 (822–908) and his successors, play a crucial role within the structure of the Zutang ji’s genealogical network. The study further highlights possible irregularities in lineage claims by contrasting metrics of degree and betweenness centrality with features of the text (e.g., number of hagiographic entries, length of the entries). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Network Analysis in the Study of Chinese Religion)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop