Animal Kingdom and Modern States: Buddhist Animal Protectionism and the Transcultural Making of Chinese Modernity


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




Through the lens of Buddhist animal advocacy in the early 20th century, I investigate the impact of changing human-animal relationships on the emergence of Chinese modernity. I use the successful Buddhist campaigns in the 1920s and 1930s to subvert the binary between secularism and religion implicit in the historiography of the Chinese Republic. Tracing the maneuvering of animal advocates such as the female poet Lü Bicheng, I argue that competing views on animals reflected the anxiety about national identity, the critique of instrumental rationality, and the search for spiritual meanings. Relying on interdisciplinary theories to interpret diverse archival sources, this project challenges historical narratives about Chinese modernization that ignored the roles of animals.