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Generational Names and Monastic Succession: A Case Study of the Jin'e Monastery in Ningbo in Ming-Qing

Zhouzi GE (Shaanxi Normal University)

Since the Ming Dynasty, generational names, in which one character of the name is shared by monks in a single generation of transmission, became common among Chinese Buddhist monks. The practice served as a tool to make the world of the sangha more uniform and systematic. However, because monks in this period could be disciples of more than one master, a single monk might have different generational names to mark his relationship with different sects or branches. Whenever consciousness of sectarian affiliation was strong, and ensuring that succession to monastic leadership was transmitted through a single sect was a concern, the generational name became an important indicator the selection of the abbot. As a result, abbots might adopt an appropriate generational name to demonstrate the legitimacy of their selection to head a particular abbey. It sometimes came to the point that in order to demonstrate their qualification for succession to a particular position, they altered their previous names. This article uses the gazetteer of the Jin'e monastery of Ningbo as well as other materials to explore this phenomenon.

Journal of History and Anthropology