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Buddhism in Singapore–China Relations: Venerable Hong Choon and His Visits, 1982–1990*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2009


Venerable Hong Choon (1907–90) made eight visits to China between 1982 and 1990. During these visits, the Venerable met national and religious leaders, made pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites, helped to restore the monasteries associated with his master Venerable Hui Quan, and officiated at religious ceremonies. This study aims to examine the diplomatic significance of Venerable Hong Choon's visits to China. It positions these religious exchanges within the broader context of Singapore–China relations since the reopening of China in the late 1970s, and argues that Buddhism played a role in fostering international relations between the two countries in the period prior to the official establishment of diplomatic ties. In the absence of formal diplomatic channels between Singapore and China, Venerable Hong Choon's religious visits could thus be seen as a form of informal diplomacy with the aim of confidence building.

Research Article
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2008

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* This article is based on my unpublished honours thesis and was presented at the Second SSEASR Conference in Bangkok in May 2007. I am grateful to Thomas DuBois, Huang Jianli, Quek Ser Hwee and Yang Bin for their many helpful suggestions. I also wish to thank Guo Jing Yu, Kuah Khun Eng, Mok Mei Feng, Gina Phang, Melissa Sim, Soh Gek Han and Yap Ching Wi, as well as my informants, Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, Venerable Sik Kwang Sheng and Lee Bock Guan for their encouragement and support.