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Japanese Imperialism and the 1934 Pan-Pacific Young Buddhists’ Associations Conference

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Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

Following the successful Pan-Pacific Young Men's Buddhist Association Conference held in Honolulu in July 1930, plans were drawn up for Japan to host a second conference in the summer of 1934, which would coincide with a celebration of the 2500th anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's birth. However, following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo the following year, Chinese Buddhists broadly opposed attending such an event. Regardless, the Japanese organizers remained committed to assembling a diverse assemblage from across the 'Buddhist bloc,' which they believed would help avert international crisis and generate regional peace. This paper examines the complex relationship between imperialism and delegates to this conference, many of whom struggled with how to balance commitments to religious ideals (such as nonviolence) and geopolitical realities. It will use the tensions experienced by conference organizers and delegates to ask what possibilities exist for 'right action' under empire.

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