Charles B. Jones, "Chinese Pure Land Buddhism: Understanding a Tradition of Practice" (U Hawaii Press, 2019)


Today’s guest is Charles B. Jones, Associate Professor and Director of the Religion and Culture graduate program in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. He will be speaking with us about his new book Chinese Pure Land Buddhism: Understanding a Tradition of Practice (U Hawaii Press, 2019), just published in the Pure Land Buddhist Studies series with University of Hawaiʻi Press.

Jones is the author is several articles and books, including Buddhism in Taiwan: Religion and the State 1660-1990, which was a foundational work in the field and the first history of its type to be published in any language. Now, Jones is once again breaking new ground with this study of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, which is the first book in any western language to provide a comprehensive overview of the Chinese Pure Land tradition, a notably understudied area in western-language Buddhist Studies scholarship.

In this work, Jones explores many of the core doctrines, practices and controversies of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, situating them historically and in the modern period, drawing on a wealth of previously unexamined primary sources, many of which he is making available to readers in English translation for the first time. This book challenges readers to rethink many longstanding assumptions about Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, including the nuanced relation of self-power and other-power as conceived in the Chinese tradition, the notion of Pure Land as a so-called “easy” path appealing to non-elite practitioners, debates about the nature of the Pure Land itself and how it is thought to exist in the world, the multifaceted practice of nian fo (念佛, nembutsu in Japanese or “buddha-recollection”), as well as the deeply fraught question of the historical development of the lineage of Pure Land “patriarchs”. This work will be of interest to all scholars of Buddhist Studies, and a valuable classroom resource for teaching Pure Land Buddhism, Buddhist Studies and Chinese Religions.

Lina Verchery is a PhD candidate in Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. She specializes in the study of modern Chinese Buddhist monasticism, with a secondary focus in Religion and Film. She can be reached at or via her website

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