Theravada Buddhism in Xishuangbanna and its connections in the Upper-Mekong Region

Zhen Ma


This project examines transnational interactions in the Upper-Mekong region, with a focus on two interrelated issues concerning Theravada Buddhist networks and cross-border marriage.  In particular, it explores the Theravada Buddhist belief and practices of the Dai-lue and the Bulang in Xishuangbanna, and their Buddhist networks with the Shan State and Northern Thailand. It further examines how Buddhist networks facilitate cross-border marriages on the Sino-Burma border.

The project focuses on three questions: The first one is how Theravada Buddhism was revived in the Dai-lue and Bulang villages in Xishuangbanna. And how does the revival of Theravada Buddhism from the 1980s to the 1990s shape Buddhist networks today? Given the fact that the Sangha system has been meticulously regulated by the state, the social memory of a space that was not controlled by nation-states and people’s experience of tightened control will be of great importance for any inquiry into the revitalization of Buddhism in Xishuangbanna. The second one is how transnational religious networks have been (and will continue to be) shaped by different and rapidly changing social milieus in Xishuangbanna and other parts of the Upper-Mekong region. And how does this religious network, i.e., the flowing of people, knowledge and goods, shape Buddhist belief and practices in Dai-lue and Bulang villages in Xishuangbanna reciprocally. The third one is how religion networks interplay with Sino-Burma cross-border marriage connections of both sexes.    

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