Justin Ritzinger

Associate Professor

(305) 284-3671
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Justin R. Ritzinger is associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami. He received his PhD in the Study of Religion from Harvard in 2010. His work focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese Buddhism. He is the author of a monograph on the reinvention of the cult of Maitreya, entitled Anarchy in the Pure Land, and articles dealing with eschatology, engagements with evolutionary theory, and international monastic exchange, as well as tourist development in the contemporary People’s Republic. He is currently working on an ethnographic study of a blue-collar lay Buddhist group in Taiwan. At the University of Miami, Ritzinger teaches courses in Asian religions



2010Ph.D. , Harvard University

Professional Experience

- Professor of Religious Studies , University of Miami

LIST OF SPECIALTIES: development and articulation of Buddhist modernism in the Chinese-speaking world and the excavation of the role played by seemingly non-modern ideas and practices in that movement

Research Projects

Anarchy in the Pure Land: Tradition, Modernity, and the Reinvention of the Cult of Maitreya in Republican China
Anarchy in the Pure Land: Tradition, Modernity, and the Reinvention of the Cult of Maitreya in Republican China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Enchanting Modernism: Humanistic Buddhism from Below
Enchanting Modernism: Humanistic Buddhism from Below, an ethnographic study of a blue-collar Buddhist group in Taoyuan, Taiwan.


Justin R. Ritzinger "Marketing Maitreya: Two Peaks, Three Forms of Capital and the Quest to Establish a Fifth Buddhist Mountain" Buddhist Tourism in Asia: Sacred Spaces within Global Networks (Under review with University of Hawai‘i Press).

Justin R. Ritzinger "Parsing Buddhist Modernity in Republican China: Ten Contrasting Terms." Buddhist Modernisms (Taylor and Francis. 2017).

SUMMARY: This book advances research on Buddhist modernism by attempting to clarify the highly diverse ways in which Buddhist faith, thought, and practice have developed in the modern age, both in Buddhist heartlands in Asia and in the West.

Justin R. Ritzinger Original Buddhism and Its Discontents: Chinese Buddhist Exchange Monks and the Search for the Pure Dharma in Ceylon. Journal of Chinese Religions 44, no. 2 (2016).


The reform movement of Republican-era Chinese Buddhism was remarkable for the distance between its ambitions and its capacities. It seemed to produce an endless stream of grandiose plans with no apparent means of implementation. Little wonder that Holmes Welch regarded the movement as an overrated failure of little lasting significance. While recent work has called this evaluation into question, many of its initiatives did fail. Among these failures, the programs to send monks to study in Ceylon were particularly resounding. Tasked with retrieving pure original Buddhism and returning as model monks, the participants in the end disrobed and returned to lay life. This would appear a disastrous result. Yet there is much that we can learn from failure. The exchange provides an illuminating window on some of the most important issues and developments of the day, including utopianism, translocal networks, and the construction of new understandings of “Buddhism.”.

Justin R. Ritzinger “The Awakening of Faith in Anarchism: A Forgotten Chapter in the Chinese Buddhist Encounter with ModernityReligion, Politics & Ideology 5, no. 2 (2014).


This article examines a hitherto lost and forgotten essay by Taixu (1890–1947), a central figure in the creation of Buddhist modernism in China. The essay, ‘The Three Great Evils of the World’, was written during his period of involvement with radicalism in the years surrounding the 1911 revolution. The article shows that this involvement was both longer lasting and more significant than has been previously recognized. ‘The Three Great Evils of the World’ represents the culmination of this period in Taixu’s intellectual development. In it, we find a convergence of two narratives of liberation – one anarchist and one Buddhist – that extends Chinese Buddhist thought beyond what has been termed the ‘threshold of modernity’ and reveals surprising resonances between the two traditions.

Justin R. Ritzinger Dependent Co-evolution: Kropotkin’s Theory of Mutual Aid and Its Appropriation by Chinese BuddhistsChung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 26 (2013).

SUMMARY: The encounter between Buddhism and science has long been recognized as one of the key events in the formulation of Buddhist modernisms. Yet only recently has this begun to be explored in its historic specificity. This paper examines Republican-era Chinese Buddhists’ engagement with the theory of
evolution at the peak of its cultural influence in the 1920s and 30s. It argues that while Buddhists largely accepted biological evolution, Darwinist theories of survival of the fittest were rejected. Instead, they embraced the alternative theory of Peter Kropotkin, who saw mutual aid as the driving force of evolution. This theory was not only less offensive to Buddhist sensibilities, but also amenable to a rhetorical strategy of subsumption in which Kropotkin was presented as anticipated and fulfilled by Buddhist doctrine. This tactic allowed Buddhists to portray the religion as modern, scientific, and progressive while avoiding what were seen as the pernicious corollaries of Darwinism. Effectively, Buddhists who employed this tactic attempted to annex Kroptokin’s discursive space, taking advantage of the internal variegation of modernity in order to constitute it as part of a modern discourse and superscribe that discourse with their own concerns.

Justin R. Ritzinger If We Build It, He Will Come: Hope, Eschatology and the Modern Reinvention of Maitreya in China. Hope, a Form of Delusion? 207-28 (2013).

Justin R. Ritzinger Marcus Bingenheimer Whole Body Relics in Chinese BuddhismThe Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies 7 (Sankt Ottilien, Germany. 2006).


Within the last few years four books on Buddhist relics have been published and relics feature prominently in a number of other monographs and articles. Clearly the topic is popular these days. The aim of this article is to give an overview of the scholarship that has been done on a special type of relic, the whole-body relic, and the development of this type in China. Whole-body relics are the mummified remains of a religious practitioner. Although whole-body relics are relatively uncommon, they are a pan-Buddhist phenomenon and, with the possible exception of Sri Lanka, Buddhist whole-body relics exist and are venerated in all Buddhist cultures.

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