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T'ung-shan She

T'ung-shan She (同善社, literally Society of Goodness) is a religious group that is one of the Way of Former Heaven (Hsien-t'ien Tao) sects. The Way of Former Heaven sects are syncretic religious groups that aspire to unify Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and other religions.

T'ung-shan She was founded in 1912 by P'eng Hui-lung (1873-?) from Szechwan, who stands in the seventeenth patriarchal generation of this Hsien-t'ien Tao (Way of Former Heaven) branch line. For the first few years the sect remained centered in the province of Szechwan, but in 1917 the sect's administrative headquarters was established in Beijing and was duly registered with the city government. The sect forged close ties with the traditional elite, and branch societies quickly mushroomed all over China. In 1920 a second, a second centre, the "Unity Association" (He-i Hui) was established in Hankow, which was to relieve the Beijing headquarters of some of its responsibilities. The T'ung-shan She's close alliance with reactionary political circles caused it to be viewed with some disfavour by the new Republican government. Soon after the latter's assumption of power, the T'ung-shan She was proscribed (1927). This only fitfully enforced prohibition did not lead to the sect's immediate demise, but it did put a stop to its previous phase of rapid expansion. It was effectively suppressed only after the Communist rise to power in 1949. Today a small number of T'ung-shan She "Buddha Halls" (fo-t'ang) remain operational in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

T'ung-Shan She is officially banned in the People's Republic of China since the Communist's reign and many of its members of have been severely persecuted.

After the loss of its mainland core organization, there currently appears to be no central governing body that would embrace all surviving T'ung-shan She Buddha halls. However, the situation is far from clear, as no extended study has been made of the T'ung-shan She's present state of affairs. There do seem to exist regional hierarchies in which one Buddha hall, often the oldest, claims seniority over the others, and acts as a sort of primus inter pares. For example, the first Taiwanese Buddha hall was founded in 1947 and in 1949 established the "Chinese Confucian Studies Association" (Chung-kuo K'ung-hsueh Hui). This earliest Buddha Hall is designated as the "provincial society" (sheng-she), while its later offshoots in other parts of Taiwan are called "branch societies" (fen-she). The picture, however, is complicated by a schism that occurred in the Taiwanese section of the sect in 1978, leading to the establishment of a competing organization called "Association for National Cultivation" (Kuo-min Hsiu-shen Hsieh-hui). In Singapore, there exists a "Southeast Asian General Association of the Sagely Religion" (Nan-yang Sheng-chiao Tsung-hui), which seems to head the T'ung-shan She Buddha Halls in Singapore and Malaysia, all of which advertise themselves under the name "Sagely Religion" (Sheng-chiao). Again, however, the picture of current conditions is far from clear.

References

  • Overview of world religions. Division of Religion and Philosophy. Division of Religion and Philosophy, University of Cumbria

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