Under the Gaze of the Buddha Mega-Statue: Commodification and Humanistic Buddhism in Fo Guang Shan

Edward Irons


The Fo Guang Shan Monastery 佛光山寺 near Kaohsiung has been a prominent part of the landscape in southern Taiwan since 1967. Now the largest monastery in Taiwan, its architecture reflects a desire to provide accessible services while
consciously incorporating Buddhist symbols.

The neighboring Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum 佛光山佛陀紀念館, opened by Master Hsing Yun 星雲法師in 2011, ramps up the symbolic content. Overlooking the entire complex, a massive seated image of the Buddha draws the attention of visitors from the moment they enter.

This paper starts with a focus on this mega-statue. How much does it signify, in itself? How should we interpret it? The discussion applies a fixed framework of interpretation, then moves to discuss the importance of context. Finally, the article examines implications for the theory of religious commodification brought to light in this particular example of mega-statues.

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