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Buddhism and Tourism at Pu-Tuo-Shan, China

This thesis is a study of pilgrimage and religious tourism in a Chinese Buddhist context, with a focus on both the host monastic community and visitors. The selected research site is Pu-Tuo-Shan, one of the Four Buddhist Sacred Mountains of China. While the Western literature on pilgrimage and religious tourism in the context of Buddhism in China remains thin and the many studies in Chinese have their research focus primarily on how to make use of religions to develop tourism and stimulate economic growth, this thesis aims to present the perceptions of Buddhist monks and nuns towards receiving visitors and tourism. The perceptions of religious hosts towards tourism development, and how they cope with the subsequent challenges created by tourism in China, are subjects that have not been studied. Additionally the thesis analyses data derived from a survey of 777 visitors to the island; the quantitative analysis sheds light on the profile of visitors. As elsewhere in the world, the religious sites of China attract not only believers, but also leisure and cultural tourists. The popularity of Pu-Tuo as a tourist destination inevitably disturbs the serenity of the monastic life of the approximately thousand monks and nuns who live there in their monasteries and nunneries. The first objective of this research is to generate a typology of visitors, and this was done through a quantitative approach grounded in post-positivism. The visitor survey was used to construct a visitor typology. The second objective of this thesis, to address how Buddhist monks and nuns perceive receiving visitors and tourism, and their ways to manage visitors’ behaviours, is achieved by adopting a qualitative approach grounded in an interpretive-constructivist paradigm. In-depth interviews with 25 monks and nuns were conducted to capture rich contextual data of their understandings. The two objectives of the thesis are related in the sense that the impact of the visitors on the monastic community and how the monks and nuns perceive their presence in Pu-Tuo depend on the visitors’ reasons for their visits, their behaviour and the strength of their belief in Buddhism. The findings provide insight into how the concepts of ‘pilgrimage’ and ‘pilgrim’ are understood from a Buddhist perspective. The attitudes of the Pu-Tuo Buddhist monks and nuns towards receiving visitors and tourism are found to be mostly welcoming and supportive. This contrasts with the literature on sites belonging to religions other than Buddhism which indicates that tourism is perceived by religious hosts as a burden and as a threat to the sanctity of their religious/sacred sites. Yet, there are challenges created by the visitors in Pu-Tuo and these are noted by the monks and nuns. Their ‘Buddhist way’ of undertaking visitor management is found to be different from what is described in the existing literature about non-Buddhist sites. It is suggested that the empathetic nature of Buddhism is at the root of the visitor management strategies adopted at Pu-Tuo. The findings thereby contribute to the existing scholarly knowledge of how Buddhist sites are managed in the Buddhist way.
Type of thesis
Wong, U. I. C. (2011). Buddhism and Tourism at Pu-Tuo-Shan, China (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5327
University of Waikato
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