Buddhism Taixu
Charles B. Jones
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0260


During the revolutionary period in which China moved from imperial rule to republicanism, many new political leaders deprecated all religion as superstition and urged the government to confiscate religious property for new secular use. While many traditionalist religious leaders simply sought to counter such moves, some, such as Taixu (b. 1890–d. 1947), were more progressive. Agreeing that Buddhism in China had fallen behind the times, Taixu worked and wrote to help Buddhists create new organizations and bring their teachings and practices more into line with the needs of the modern world. Perhaps more than anything else, he is known as the founder of a form of Buddhism called “Buddhism for Human Life” (rensheng fojiao) and “Buddhism for the Human Realm” (renjian fojiao), terms often rendered into English both as “Engaged Buddhism” and “Humanistic Buddhism.” Only recently have scholars begun to acknowledge that Taixu kept much of the Buddhist tradition intact even as he tried to reorient it toward engagement with contemporary social and political problems. However, his successors (such as Sheng Yen and Thich Nhat Hanh) have moved even further away from premodern concepts and “escapist” goals in order to focus Buddhist attention on this-worldly issues such as environmental degradation, women’s issues, and human rights. Because of the increased recent attention to the more traditional elements of Taixu’s Buddhist belief and practice, those who use the items in the following article for research should pay attention to the date of the material. Studies published prior to 1990 will invariably present Taixu strictly as a modernizer and declare wrongly that he opposed such things as ritualism and Pure Land devotions, and place him in opposition to another Buddhist faction labeled “traditionalist” or “conservative.” More recent studies will note his own devotion to Maitreya and aspiration for rebirth in that future buddha’s abode, his rich ritual life, and his friendly relations with many of those deemed “conservative.” To date, not many studies on Taixu have appeared, and so the following bibliography is not extensive.

Primary Sources for the Study of Taixu

Entries in this section include the main anthology of Taixu’s works and the first major biography of him, published in China by one of his more eminent followers. These and other entries are in Chinese and are intended to give the specialist researcher a starting point. The other entries contain translations of Taixu’s writings into English.

  • Jones, Charles B. Taixu’s ‘On the Establishment of the Pure Land in the Human Realm’: A Translation and Study. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

    This book presents a short biography of Taixu up to 1926 and a complete translation of his essay “On the Establishment of the Pure Land in the Human Realm” (Jianshe renjian jingtu lun 建設人間凈土論). Other chapters present a survey of Western scholarship on Taixu, an analysis of the themes of this essay, and the continuing impact his idea of the “Pure Land in the Human Realm” has had on modern Chinese Buddhism.

  • Taixu. “A Statement to Asiatic Buddhists.” The Young East 1 (1925): 177–182.

    This is an English translation of an address that Taixu delivered to the Far Eastern Buddhist Conference held in Tokyo in 1925. In it he outlines his criticism of capitalism and imperialism, argues that Buddhism proffers the best hope for combating them, details the advantages and shortcomings of various regional Buddhisms, and calls on Buddhists worldwide to join together to help resolve the world’s problems.

  • Taixu. “The Meaning of Buddhism.” Translated by Frank R. Millican. Chinese Recorder 65.11 (November 1934): 689–695.

    Presents translations of Taixu’s writings.

  • Taixu. Taixu dashi quanshu (太虛大師全書). Edited by Yinshun 印順. Hong Kong: Taixudashi quanshu chuban weiyuanhui 太虛大師全書出版委員會, 1953.

    This collection (translates as “The collected works of Great Master Taixu”) is the primary source for all of Taixu’s works, though Ritzinger 2010 (cited under Monograph Studies on Taixu) notes that many publications from early in his life printed under pseudonyms are not included. This collection has been published many times by many publishers, and one may often find it online on websites that are not always reliable or stable. The cited edition is reliable, as is that published in 1998 by Shandao si 善導寺 (Taipei). It is also available as a CD-ROM from Yinshun wenjiao jijinhui 印順文教基金會, 2006.

  • Taixu. Taixu dashi zizhuan (太虛大師自傳). Taipei: Fuzhi zhi sheng 福智之聲, 1996.

    This volume (translates as “The autobiography of Taixu”) is Taixu’s own account of his life. Though he often misremembers and conflates events, this source is important for gleaning Taixu’s own feelings about and evaluations of his efforts.

  • Yinshun 印順, ed. Taixu Dashi nianpu (太虛大師年譜). Rev. ed. Taipei: Zhengwen 正聞, 1992.

    This is the standard reference source for Taixu’s biography, edited by one of his most prominent students (translates as “Chronological biography of Taixu”).

  • Zhou, Xiangguang. Tʻai Hsu, His Life and Teachings. Allahabad, India: Indo-Chinese Literature Publications, 1957.

    The first twenty pages of this book are devoted to a brief and hagiographical biography of Taixu, while the remainder consists of translations of some brief works.

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