Tongshanshe

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Tongshanshe (Chinese: 同善社; pinyin: Tóngshàn Shè; Wade–Giles: T'ung-shan She; literally: "Society of Goodness") is a religious group that is one of the Way of Former Heaven (Xiantiandao) sects. The Way of Former Heaven sects are syncretic religious groups that aspire to unify Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and other religions.

The Tongshan She was founded in 1912 by Peng Huilong (彭迴龍, 1873-?) from Sichuan, who stands in the seventeenth patriarchal generation of this Way of Former Heaven branch line. For the first few years the sect remained centered in the province of Sichuan, but in 1917 the sect's administrative headquarters was established in Beijing and was duly registered with the city government. The sect forged close ties with the traditional elite, and branch societies quickly mushroomed all over China. In 1920 a second, a second centre, the "Unity Association" (合一會 Héyī Huì) was established in Hankou, which was to relieve the Beijing headquarters of some of its responsibilities. The Tongshan She's close alliance with reactionary political circles caused it to be viewed with some disfavour by the new Republican government. Soon after the latter's assumption of power, the Tongshan She was proscribed (1927). This only fitfully enforced prohibition did not lead to the sect's immediate demise, but it did put a stop to its previous phase of rapid expansion. It was effectively suppressed only after the Communist rise to power in 1949. Today a small number of Tongshan She "Buddha halls" (佛堂 Fótáng) remain operational in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The Tongshan She is officially banned in the People's Republic of China since the Communist's reign and many of its members of have been severely persecuted.

After the loss of its mainland core organization, there currently appears to be no central governing body that would embrace all surviving Tongshan She Buddha halls. However, the situation is far from clear, as no extended study has been made of the Tongshan She's present state of affairs. There do seem to exist regional hierarchies in which one Buddha hall, often the oldest, claims seniority over the others, and acts as a sort of primus inter pares. For example, the first Taiwanese Buddha hall was founded in 1947 and in 1949 established the "Chinese Confucian Studies Association" (中國孔學會 Zhōngguó Kǒngxué Huì). This earliest Buddha Hall is designated as the "provincial society" (省會 shěnghuì), while its later offshoots in other parts of Taiwan are called "branch societies" (分社 fēnshè). The picture, however, is complicated by a schism that occurred in the Taiwanese section of the sect in 1978, leading to the establishment of a competing organization called "Association for National Cultivation" (國民修神協會 Guómín Xiūshén Xiéhuì).

In Singapore, there exists a "Southeast Asian General Association of the Sagely Religion" (南洋聖教總會 Nányáng Shèngjiào Zǒnghuì), which seems to head the Tongshan She Buddha Halls in Singapore and Malaysia, all of which advertise themselves under the name "Sagely Religion" (聖教 Shèngjiào). Again, however, the picture of current conditions is far from clear.

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