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Department of the Study of Religions

Rev Aristotle Dy

Masters in Buddhist Studies (University of Hong Kong); MA Philosophy and MA Theological Studies (Ateneo de Manila University)


Aristotle Dy
Rev Aristotle Dy
Email address:
Thesis title:
Marginal Buddhists: Religion, Social Work, and Cultural Identity of the Chinese in the Philippines
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

The practice of Chinese Buddhism in the Philippines is confined to the ethnic Chinese community, a minority group comprising only 1.2% of the population in the Philippines. This profile gives rise to different layers of discourse, such as the unique development of Buddhism in China, and the ways in which the religion has been transformed historically and then brought to other places by the sojourning Chinese. Further, there is the articulation of Chinese identity, its particularization in the Philippine context, and the place of religion in such an identity. This study will explore these layers of discourse through the looking glass of Chinese Buddhism in an overseas Chinese community, that of the Philippines.

The context will be established through a discussion of religion and identity, the Chinese transformation of Buddhism, and a presentation of Buddhism in China in the 20th century as well as its development in Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Bringing the focus to the Philippines, the study will investigate a selected group of Buddhist temples in the Philippines, and pursue a number of research questions during fieldwork. What is the general history of Chinese Buddhism in the Philippines? What is the state of Chinese Buddhism in the Philippines today? Focusing on selected temples in Metropolitan Manila, what is the quality of temple life, and what has been the impact of these temples in the areas of religion, culture, and social welfare in the Chinese community? Can this impact be compared, albeit to a much smaller extent, to the lasting contributions of Buddhism to Chinese religion, culture, and society?

In the religious sphere, the study will examine the religious practices at the temples and identify what strains of Chinese Buddhism are present in temple and lay practice. This will include ritual practices as well as the texts and doctrines being promoted at the temples. The religious aspect will then be located in the larger area of Chinese Buddhism and evaluated in terms of its place in the religious life of the Chinese community, especially in the face of syncretism within and beyond Chinese religions.

The temples also carry out cultural activities such as language classes, publications, and the religious celebration of Chinese festivals. The study will explore how such activities contribute to the Chinese sense of identity, asking whether temple activities tended towards isolation or integration of the minority community with the larger Philippine society.

Apart from the religious and cultural spheres, social works such as education, healthcare, and calamity relief are also associated with the temple communities. What is the purpose of such works in the community? Are they expressions of religious belief, or efforts at gaining social acceptance in Philippine society?

Through immersion in the field and interviews with key informants, I hope to explore such questions and work towards an evaluation of Chinese Buddhism in the Philippines.


  • Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS)
  • International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas (ISSCO)