Chinese Buddhism in the United States


  • Meilee Shen


The connection between a religion and a culture is significant. A religion can have an impact on a surrounding culture while a culture can also transform a religion into a style to suit local needs. Buddhism is no exception. Its flexibility to fit in different cultures is the key that allowed this religion to progress from an Indian religion to a worldwide religion. Today, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world. According to Buddhist Studies: Buddha Dharma Education Association & BuddhaNet, there are about 350 million people who claimed they are Buddhists. Chinese immigrants introduced Buddhism to the United States. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Buddhism was simply a Chinese religion within the immigrant community that enabled immigrants to stay in touch with their native culture
and traditions. It eventually grew in California during the first half of the twentieth century. The construction of Buddhist temples and the arrival of monk, enabled Chinese immigrants to hold onto their original culture and to find a
way to fit into the new culture in America. Overall, Chinese Buddhism’s flexibility and willingness to adopt different cultures are major factors contributing to its survival in the diverse cultures of the world.

Author Biography

Meilee Shen

Meilee Shen is a PhD student at Graduate Institute of Religious
Studies, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan and
the President of both the American Zen Buddhist Temple,
Inc., Pennsylvania, USA and the Pure Life Buddhist Church Society, Massachusetts, USA. She can be reached at: