Thai Buddhism

Justin McDaniel

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:
Thai Buddhism

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Thailand’s population is between 93 and 96 percent Buddhist, and Buddhist institutions have been socially and royally supported for over one thousand years, making Thailand one of the most dynamic places to experience Buddhist practice, interact with Buddhist art, and investigate Buddhist literature and history. However, until the late 20th century, scholarly work on Siamese/Thai Buddhism had been relatively lacking in comparison to work on Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Japan, and Tibet. After that period, scholars started taking advantage of Thailand’s relative peace and economic stability to undertake research that was proving more difficult in places like Burma, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Perhaps the greatest contribution from both Thai and non-Thai scholars to Buddhist studies more broadly is in the field of anthropology. Classic works have gone far in mapping the ritual and performative aspects of modern Thai Buddhism. While anthropologists have generally dominated the field of Thai Buddhist studies, textual, monastic, art, liturgical, and institutional history have benefitted from the exploration of both Pali and Thai manuscripts, as well as royal and clerical administrative documents. Many of these sources were exposed by the recently deceased and highly influential Japanese scholar Yoneo Ishii. Scholars of art history and epigraphy have also influenced the study of Buddhism in Thailand, with Penth, Woodward, Griswold, Pattaratorn, and others helping to write the history of the movement of styles, schools, and techniques throughout the region. The contributions of Thai Buddhist studies to the fields of Buddhism and politics, and gender and Buddhism, have also grown recently, attracting new students and scholars to the field. Perhaps the least studied aspects of Thai Buddhism are Thai Buddhist modern literature and premodern vernacular manuscript studies. For other sources relevant to studies in Thai Buddhism, see the Oxford Bibliographies articles on Theravada and Buddhism in Southeast Asia.

Article.  4907 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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