Chinese Buddhism history

CBE LogoThe following is an interview with Australian-based Estonian Buddhist monk and scholar Vello Vaartnou. It details an exciting project he has been working on since 2012 to develop the an online Wikipedia-style production which seeks to collect and curate knowledge about Buddhism. The emphasis is on Chinese Buddhism, as the name suggests, but the the Encyclopedia sets out to provide a repository of knowledge about Buddhism generally. It therefore promises to be of interest to Buddhists, regardless of tradition.

The interview has been reproduced with permission.


The First Year of Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia

The end of the year 2012 marked an important milestone in academic Buddhism. During the PNC conference held at Berkeley University on 7-9 December, Vello Vaartnou, a Buddhist monk from Australia, launched his voluminous new project, an online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia.

It has taken Vaartnou many years to accumulate the knowledge and merit to start such a massive undertaking – one that is expected to continue long after most of our lifetimes.

Delegates attending the Berkeley conference.Vello Vaartnou has been a dedicated Buddhist for over 40 years and has educated people in Buddhism in many countries. He established the practical Buddhist tradition and the first nyingma movement, the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood in 1980 and introduced the first Buddhist objects into the Estonian intellectual and religious landscape.

He has translated books and texts, built seven stupas (including the first stupas of Northern Europe), and prayer wheels and temples.

Vello Vaartnou himself is a significant person in terms of modernizing Buddhist teachings and making them more available. He is the first ever to start using computers to paint thangkas and design temples with 3-D software and is today the author of two online Buddhist Encyclopedias and founder of two annual international Buddhist conference in Europe and Australia. Since 2010 Vaartnou has been developing international educational projects in the Australasian region, initiating the international conferences Buddhism & Australia, an online History of Buddhist Australia, series of exhibitions and an online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia (CBE).

The first entries for the Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia were posted in December 2012 and it has since grown to 20 000 articles in English and 4000 in Chinese. Vaartnou has continued his work on the project which is already considered one of the biggest online resources on Buddhism.

Let`s have a look at the CBE on its first birthday, and ask its author more about it.

Why a Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia?

Vello Vaartnou:

Chinese Buddhism has a very rich and colorful history and presence. China currently has a vast amount of different Buddhist materials, including texts, chronicles, commentaries from practitioners, sutras, tantras, paintings, sculptures, temples, shrines, monasteries, etc. In modern China numerous different Buddhist traditions are practiced, for example Chan and Tibetan Buddhism, etc. which results even more variety in available Buddhist materials in China.

China has one of the biggest populations of Buddhists in the world. Along with its significant and increasing global influence, it has great potential to preserve and develop the Buddhist tradition, and to influence the development of Buddhism globally.

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