Yuhuazhai movement: moral cultivation and the invention of ‘traditional Chinese culture’
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This project seeks to explore the interaction between the religious and secular through the case study of the Yuhuazhai movement in China. Yuhuazhai is a chain of charities offering both free vegetarian lunches and space for moral cultivation for its followers in China. First created by Venerable Wenquan in Hangzhou in 2011, the charity model of Yuhuazhai spread rapidly in small cities and towns across China. Although mostly founded by Buddhist followers, at the centre of Yuhuazhai’s moral cultivation is a peculiar coupling of a vegetarian diet and ‘traditional Chinese culture’ study. Volunteers perform daily rituals following a rigid practice of “li ” (etiquette) before and after they serve free lunch to local people in Yuhuazhai charities. They also hold weekly study sessions reading curated texts from Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist traditions. More fieldwork and research are requisite to examine this particular formulation of traditional Chinese culture.