Mapping Religions Webinar Series 3 — Mapping the Global East

Center on Religion and the Global East (CRGE)
Mapping Religions in China Webinar Series
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Philip Stoker — Creating a Digital Atlas of Buddhism in Hangzhou China Using the Regional Religious Framework
This presentation will highlight our project to digitize and present the locations, patterns, and history of Buddhism in Hangzhou China. This digital mapping project used the Regional Religious Systems framework to view the locations, development, and relationship of physical geography and Buddhism in Hangzhou using data from 900 to 2015 AD. We used a combination of videos, 3D visualizations, and interactive maps to highlight Buddhist temple locations, pilgrimage routes, and natural landscapes throughout the region. All these maps and visualizations were combined into an ArcGIS story map which can be publicly viewed through the Regional Religious Systems lab website. In addition to highlighting this project, the presenter will show how this approach can be used in other regions and can be broadened to include other religions and countries. Future strategies for data collection and visualization, as well as potential challenges will be discussed in an effort to form new collaborations and to encourage other researchers to apply this framework and approach to their own topics and interests.

Jeffery Wei Liu — Mapping Temple Amalgamation with Historical GIS: A Spatial Interpretation of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s Institutional Reform
During the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 (1328-1398), the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), his edict on temple amalgamation (siyuan guibing 寺院歸併) significantly contributed to Buddhist revival through institutional reform. This presentation adopts a regional approach focused on Hangzhou, and utilizes Records of Buddhism in Hangzhou (Wulin Fanzhi  武林梵志) as a primary source to spatially analyze the temple amalgamation policy. As an enhancement to the traditional historical analysis, this presentation will also include a practical training component on employing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research. It will demonstrate the step-by-step process of mapping the temples in Hangzhou using GIS and will guide attendees on how to identify spatial patterns, effectively utilize the tools within GIS, and corroborate findings with other data sources. Additionally, this presentation will provide a brief tutorial on how to access and make the most of the OSAGE database for similar research purposes. Objectives include not only historical analysis but also training attendees in GIS mapping techniques and data extraction from the OSAGE database, and showcasing how this
technological approach can provide nuanced insights into the temples’ amalgamation process. The integration of GIS and the OSAGE database can effectively reveal commonalities among temples and facilitate a richer analysis. This hybrid approach not only enriches our understanding of Zhu Yuanzhang’s policies and their effects on Buddhism but also equips researchers with practical skills in GIS and usage of the OSAGE database, offering a comprehensive framework or examining historical phenomena and contributing to the methodological advancements in the field.

Jiang Wu — Measuring the Prestige Index in a Regional Religious System
A Regional Religious System (RRS) represents the spatial formation of a group of religious sites which have intricate connections with regionally distributed factors such as population, economy, transportation, etc. A variety of conventional spatial analysis techniques such as Hierarchical Regional Space (HRS), Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA), Spatial Regression, Point Pattern Analysis, Overlay Analysis, Kernel Density can be performed with the religious sites data. However, these methods have treated religious sites as merely ordinary locations because the current datasets are all culled from locational information with various levels of accuracy. Therefore, there is a great need to develop new methods to access religious sites and their related significance sophisticatedly.

In order to conduct further quantitative studies of religious sites, we need to understand what religious sites stand for and why they are important in a local area. In Chinese religion, a religious site can be large or small, owns more or less land, or has more or less resident clergy. They play various roles in local areas as connectors to local social and economic life. One of the most important factors when Chinese people consider the importance of a religious site is its prestige. A prestigious site is more likely to receive more patronages, both cultural and economic, and is more likely to survive in China’s long and turbulent history. C.K. Yang, for example, argues that a temple’s prestige is more important than its sectarian affiliation. The prestigious temples tend to become the destination of pilgrimage and tourism. However, there never exists a quantifiable index to measure how prestigious a religious site is. This paper will consider the possibility of creating such an index to characterize religious sites more accurately and quantitatively. We will base our discussion on the data we collected in the Hangzhou area. There are the following variables to consider when creating a prestige index in each regional religious system.