By Shyamal Sinha
Fujian is a mountainous province that looks primarily out to the South China Sea and as such it has a certain feeling of independence from China.
The China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA) has announced that the fifth session of the World Buddhist Forum will be held at the coastal city of Putian, in China’s Fujian province. The announcement was made by Chen Zongrong, vice chairman of the CRCCA, at a press conference, on 8 April in Beijing. Several senior religious and political figures were present at the press conference, including director of State Administration of Religious Affairs Wang Zuo’an.
Speaking to journalists, Chen said that the themes of the fifth forum would “emphasize the positive roles of religious people in economic and social development, the Belt and Road Initiative and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.” (Xinhua) Chen also mentioned that invitations would be sent to 800 delegates from the Buddhist world, academia, the media, and political circles. Notably, a total of 300 delegates from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan would be invited. Invitees from outside of China would total 300 as well, and 200 delegates from Mainland China are projected to attend.
“Buddhism has an important place in the history of humanity’s spiritual civilization and cultural development. After it was transmitted into China and merged with Chinese culture, a Buddhist culture with Chinese characteristics emerged to become an important component of traditional Chinese culture,” said Chen. (Hong Kong Wenwei)
Ven. Yanjue, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, told reporters that this year’s forum would have ten panels, discussing various topics: Buddhism and the Maritime Silk Road, Buddhism and charity, Buddhism and environmental protection, communicating globally with Buddhism, cross-strait Buddhism and Buddhism in the special administrative regions (SAR), the culture of the ancestral seats (zuting) and the transmission of the Vinaya of Chinese Buddhism, communication and collaboration between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, arts and culture, Buddhism’s relationship with the Belt and Road Initiative, and a common future with humanity.
A memorandum of the forum’s mission was signed at the press conference, after officials from the State Administration for Religious Affairs held discussions with provincial officials in Fujian. The memorandum states that the core rubrics of the forum would be “mutual communication” and “Middle Way harmony.” (Fujian News) It also proclaims that the forum’s goals are to play an active role in the Sinophone Buddhist spheres in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China, help promote Buddhist culture across the world, and advance the global influence of Chinese Buddhist culture. Ven. Xuecheng, president of the Buddhist Association of China, was present at the signing.
The World Buddhist Forum is one of the most important ongoing Buddhist conferences in China. It has hosted Buddhists from around the world, but is a valuable platform for Chinese Buddhist organizations to meet and discuss issues of mutual concern and interest. Proposed in 2005 by Buddhists in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association jointly hosted the forum in 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015.