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In open contrast to the abundance of studies concerning the first millennium of Chinese history, many aspects of the institutional, intellectual and cultural history of Chinese Buddhism during the past one thousand years remain, with some notable exceptions, largely unstudied. In particular, Western language scholarly accounts of Chinese Buddhism since the end of the 19th century are still rare and, with regards to the first part of the 20th century, largely limited to the efforts of one individual, the late American scholar, Holmes Welch (1921–1981). During the last ten or 15 years, however, there have been signs of a reversal of this tendency as an increasing number of researchers began to devote themselves to the study of modern and contemporary Chinese Buddhism. The lion's share of this emerging scholarly trend belongs to studies of Taiwanese rather than mainland Chinese Buddhism. This choice can partly be attributed to the increasing international visibility of Taiwanese Buddhist associations, but I also suspect that funding opportunities and a comparatively more welcoming research environment may have something to do with it!
The two books under review are also concerned with contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism. Their authors adopt different but somehow complementary approaches. Whereas André Laliberté's instructive study of the attitudes towards the active political participation of Taiwanese Buddhist organizations focuses on the activities of the three main Taiwanese Buddhist organizations, namely the Buddha Light Mountain (or Foguangshan) monastic order, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association (or Ciji gongdehui), and the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China (Zhongguo fojiaohui), Stuart Chandler's engaging study focuses on Foguangshan and the views of its founder and charismatic leader, Ven. Xingyun.