The centrality of death rituals has rarely been documented in anthropologically informed studies of Buddhism. Bringing together a range of perspectives including ethnographic, textual, historical and theoretically informed accounts, this edited volume presents the diversity of the Buddhist funeral cultures of mainland Southeast Asia and China. While the contributions show that the ideas and ritual practices related to death are continuously transformed in local contexts through political and social changes, they also highlight the continuities of funeral cultures. The studies are based on long-term fieldwork and covering material from Theravada Buddhism in Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and various regions of Chinese Buddhism, both on the mainland and in the Southeast Asian diasporas. Topics such as bad death, the feeding of ghosts, pollution through death, and the ritual regeneration of life show how Buddhist cultures deal with death as a universal phenomenon of human culture.
Paul Williams is Emeritus Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy and founding co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. He is author of Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd edition (2009), The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence (1998), Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of Bodhicaryavatara (1998), The Unexpected Way: On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism (2001) and Songs of Love, Poems of Sadness: The Erotic Verse of the Sixth Dalai Lama (2004). He is co-author, with Anthony Tribe, of Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, 2nd edition (2012) and was sole editor of the eight-volume series Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (2005). Patrice Ladwig is research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle, Germany) where he works in a research group focusing on historical anthropology. He has published articles in the fields of anthropology, Asian studies and Buddhist studies. He is currently finalizing a monograph entitled Revolutionaries and Reformers in Lao Buddhism and working on an edited volume on Buddhist socialism.
1. Buddhist funeral cultures of Southeast Asia and China Patrice Ladwig and Paul Williams; 2. Chanting as 'bricolage technique': a comparison of South and Southeast Asian funeral recitation Rita Langer; 3. Weaving life out of death: the craft of the rag robe in Cambodian ritual technology Erik W. Davis; 4. Corpses and cloth: illustrations of the pasukula ceremony in Thai manuscripts M. L. Pattaratorn Chirapravati; 5. Good death, bad death and ritual restructurings: the New Year ceremonies of the Phunoy in northern Laos Vanina Boute; 6. Feeding the dead: ghosts, materiality and merit in a Lao Buddhist festival for the deceased Patrice Ladwig; 7. Funeral rituals, bad death and the protection of social space among the Arakanese (Burma) Alexandra de Mersan; 8. Theatre of death and rebirth: monks' funerals in Burma Francois Robinne; 9. From bones to ashes: the Teochiu management of bad death in China and overseas Bernard Formoso; 10. For Buddhas, families and ghosts: the transformation of the Ghost Festival into a Dharma assembly in southeast China Ingmar Heise; 11. Xianghua foshi (incense and flower Buddhist rites): a local Buddhist funeral ritual tradition in southeastern China Yik Fai Tam; 12. Buddhist passports to the other world: a study of modern and early medieval Chinese Buddhist mortuary documents Frederick Shih-Chung Chen.