Book Rec for Pan-Asian, Early-Modern Buddhism?

Dear Hivemind,

I’m looking for a book on the early modern history of Buddhism, and in particular how Buddhist Asia was affected by and reacted to the first wave of European Colonialism and the arrival of modernity.

The best I’ve found so far are The Making of Buddhist Modernism and The Lotus and the Lion but the former focuses on the 20th century and the latter focuses exclusively on the British Empire (Sri Lanka and Burma… and even then, mostly the effects of Buddhism on the Brits rather than vice versa). I’m looking for a book that also covers the Qing Dynasty, Edo/Meiji Japan… ideally also the Spaniards’ forced conversion of the Philippines to Catholicism, etc.

I guess such a book would fall into that awkward middle territory where it’s too expansive to be appealing to academic writers and simultaneously too narrow for publishers to commission… But thought it worth an ask just in case I’ve missed it (or someone is inspired to write it!) :slight_smile:

It doesn’t have to be exclusively “Buddhist” I guess? A general (social?) history of early-modern (East) Asia may do the trick too :slight_smile:



Esoteric Theravada by Kate Crosby

The focus is on how certain meditation techniques were lost due to Colonialism and Buddhism’s response to it. The book’s focus is narrower than you are looking for, and I don’t know if you’ll agree with the thesis, but I found the material on colonialism quite interesting.


Yeah thanks! It’s in the vein, but (as you say) more specific than what I’m hoping for

1 Like

Might there be some useful bits in this? If nothing else, then it might have plenty of references.

1 Like

This book is not specifically about Buddhism, so broader than what you are looking for, but is a fascinating survey of the emergence of states in Southeast Asia, especially the spread of Han-Chinese, and the impacts on /responses of local cultures. It touches on Buddhism in parts.

The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott

Here’s an online copy.


One book? Written by Westerners on Buddhists local experience of colonialism in innumerable localities across vast expanses of land, time, space, people? No.

Thanks for bumping this! Been on my To Read list for a while :sweat_smile:

Doesn’t have to be!

Never read it, because I learned about this stuff elsewhere. But he’s a key figure.

From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra

This book, unfortunately, does not address @Khemarato.bhikkhu 's question. But it is close enough in subject that I thought I’d give it a recommendation in this thread in case anyone was interested. It’s about the early 20th Century response to Colonialism from the Ottoman Empire to Japan. What I liked about it is that it looks at it from an Asian perspective.


Google found this short paper which kinda shows the gist of what I’m looking for:

1 Like

Here’s a baker’s dozen for you, eleven books and two papers.












Hwansoo Ilmee Kim, Who Gets to Represent Korean Buddhism? (Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 45, issue 2. 2019)

Thibaut d’Hubert, India beyond the Ganges: Defining Arakanese Buddhism in Persianate colonial Bengal. (Indian Economic & Social History Review. 2019)


A couple of those are new to me so thanks for the bibliography! :slight_smile:

But, again (and I hate to sound like a broken record here) these are all about the 19th/20th centuries, no? I’m specifically looking for a book about the changes to Buddhism in the early modern period (17th/18th c)


I wonder if the Thai language publication referenced on p139, Thai Diplomatic Relations in the Ayudhya Period, might be what you were after. But I only have the title not the text?

JSS_055_1k_Reviews.pdf (1012.2 KB)


Yeah, it’s certainly part of the story!

In hindsight it’s so tragic that the Burmese and Tai were fighting each other even as the storm clouds of Colonization were gathering. Similar story in Sri Lanka of course…

And no, I’m not going to let you trick me into writing the darn thing myself! :rofl:


As far as Japan goes I lived in the region where Western influence began and was eventually restricted to for a couple of hundred years before Japan was forced to open up to foreigners and the Meiji Restoration. Going back, specifically, to the Portuguese influence in Nagasaki, would be the work of specialist historians, and not in one area.

Frankly, to me, your question seems over broad. What would you like to ask? What was the influence of the Portguese slave trade on Japanese Buddhists? Seriously. Maybe refine it even more: how concerned was the bakufu with rebirth of its nation in the face of the Portuguese canon. uh hmm.

No quite what you seek, but art does often reflect the social-political milieu of the times…
European dvārapālas! :hushed: ( see the link for more details)


I’ve just received an announcement for the following paper, though it was published back in 2009:

Pì xiè jí 闢邪集: Collected Refutations of Heterodoxy by Ouyi Zhixu (蕅益智旭, 1599–1655)

It’s a translation by Charles Jones of an anti-Christian polemic composed by the 17th century Pure Land patriarch Ouyi Zhixu in response to the apologetic writings of Jesuit missionaries Matteo Ricci and Giulio Aleni.