Stefania Travagnin

Fieldwork Notes 2015-2016

During my first trip to Chengdu I did research on a small nunnery, the Jinsha Nunnery (Jinsha’an 金沙庵), via archival research and interviews to the resident nuns.

Jinsha Nunnery is located in Qingyang district, which is a very important area for the religious landscape in Chengdu as it hosts sacred sites and religious communities belonging to all the five official religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity); this is also the district of the famous Manjusri Monastery (Wenshu yuan 文殊院) and Aidao Hall (Aidao tang 爱道堂). The nunnery is built on a tiny and busy commercial alley, with the main gate quite hidden by surrounding shops.

Jinsha is a small community of twenty nuns, but it is also a temple from the Qing dynasty, and whose history includes the succession of thirteen generations of nuns, which is a rare and remarkable achievement in the female history of Buddhism. The photos of the abbesses representative of those thirteen generations are all enshrined together in a pagoda; this ‘pagoda’ is not merely a memorial of the succession of 13 abbesses, it is a the collective memory of what I call ‘Jinsha community’. Moreover, those portraits reconstruct the history of a community that goes beyond the borders of Jinsha, and it shows how temples and networks intersect and develop in a micro-area.  

After research in the city and provincial archives, and in the archives of the Sichuan office of the Buddhist Association of China I found that Jinsha Nunnery has contributed tremendously to a few religious networks: the larger Buddhist network in the city of Chengdu and surrounding areas, and the inter-religious network of the Qingyang district and of Chengdu and suburbs.

An article on the Jinsha community will be published shortly.

Fieldwork Photos 2015-2016

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Fieldwork Notes ‘Han Buddhism intra-religious networks in Chengdu/Sichuan’ [March 2019]

As for the sub-project ‘Han Buddhism intra-religious network in Chengdu/Sichuan’, I made some adjustment to my initial proposal, which wanted to focus only on urban Chengdu. I decided to look at the entire Sichuan, focusing then also on rural areas. Moreover, I selected two specific perspectives, Buddhist education and female communities, for the analysis of the modern history of Sichuan Han Buddhism. Therefore, this sub-project will unpack ‘Buddhist education networks’ (佛教教育网络) and ‘female Buddhist networks’ (女性佛教网络) that developed in modern Sichuan. Buddhist education has been further divided into ‘social education’ (社会教育), ‘Sangha education’ (僧教育) and ‘military education’ (军民教育).

In this trip, major attention has been devoted to ‘Sangha education’ and ‘military education’. I visited several temples and, thanks to my contacts in the Sichuan branch of the Buddhist Association of China and the Sichuan University, I could arrange for interviews with leading monks and nuns. I also worked in the provincial libraries, temples and city archives.

I have unpacked important ‘Sangha education networks’ centred on the figures of leading monks like Shengqin 圣钦 (1869-1964), 遍能 (1906-1997), 昌圆 (1879-1943), and the lay intellectual Wang Enyang 王恩洋 (1897-1964). As for the latter, I have also researched an important Sichuan-Nanjing cross-province network centred on him and his lecturing career. As for the ‘military education’, the Baoguang monastery 宝光寺 served as key case study.

Several articles are being drafted and will be submitted shortly.


Fieldwork Photos ‘Han Buddhism intra-religious networks in Chengdu/Sichuan’ [March 2019]


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Fieldwork Notes  ‘Religious Diversity/Inter-Religious Networks in Qingyang District’【March 2019】

I visited all the sacred sites in Qingyang 青羊 district that were important in the late Qing-Republican period, and are still present (some even active) today: the two mosques 皇城清真寺 and 鼓楼清真寺, the Protestant church 上翔街礼拜堂, the Catholic church 平安桥天主堂, the Daoist temples 二仙庵 and 娘娘廟, and the Buddhist temples 文殊院, 爱道堂, and 金沙庵. I took photos of those sites, interviewed their devotees and religious personnel, and also collected data the sites themselves, the Sichuan Provincial Library, city archives, and the library of the Sichuan University.

This was just a preliminary survey, in preparation of a second trip (to be done later this year) that will be devoted to unpack dynamics of the inter-religious networks in the district. I will look at the situation in the Republican period but also at the status quo today.


Fieldwork Photos – ‘Religious Diversity/Inter-Religious Networks in Qingyang District’【March 2019】

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