Tropical Geography


Spatial Differentiation Characteristics and Influencing Factors of Buddhist Monasteries in Yunnan Province

Wen Peng1(), Yuliang Yang1(), Yafei Huang2, Kaize Zou1,3, Kailong Duan4, Yangdong Shen1   

  1. 1.Faculty of Geography, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650500, China
    2.School of International Chinese Studies, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650500, China
    3.Qujing No. 1 Middle School, Qujing 655000, China
    4.Dali Cultural Relics Protection Management Institute, Dali 671000, China
  • Received:2023-04-11 Revised:2023-06-01 Online:2023-09-26
  • Contact: Yuliang Yang;


The spatial distribution characteristics of Buddhist monasteries in Yunnan Province, a typical sample area of Buddhist diversity, have not been studied. Therefore, in view of the situation and from the perspective of Buddhist geography, samples of Buddhist monasteries from 540 cultural relic protection units at all levels were selected to examine the spatial differentiation characteristics and influencing factors of Buddhist monasteries in Yunnan Province. GIS spatial analysis was combined with fieldwork methods. The following results were obtained: 1) Buddhist monasteries in the province are generally distributed in agglomerations, being concentrated in Dali, Honghe, and Kunming. The spatial distribution density is centered around three core areas, with other more discrete areas. The Chinese Buddhist monasteries are distributed in an inverted U-shaped band in the central part of the province, the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are distributed in a "single core, many centers" pattern, and the Theravada Buddhist monasteries are distributed in a "two-side dense, middle-sparse" pattern. 2) Laterally, Buddhist monasteries are mainly distributed in the Jinsha, Lancang, and Pearl River basins, with considerable differences between sub-basins. Vertically, the monasteries have a "three-step" distribution characteristic, which corresponds to the vertical landforms. 3) The complex human-geographic environment of Yunnan is a key factor in the differentiation of Buddhist monasteries. The geographical structure is a fundamental force that determines the spatially differentiated character of Buddhist monasteries. The central geographical location connecting the four directions relies on the geographical environment to form a balance of distribution of the three types of Buddhist monasteries. Landforms and elevations combine to affect the distribution of ethnic groups with different livelihoods based on elevation and thus affect the distribution of Buddhist monasteries. The cultural structure has contributed to the formation of a pluralistic coexistence pattern in exchanges among various monasteries. The exchange through river basin corridors may have led to the development of Chinese Buddhist monasteries in the eastern Yunnan Plateau. Tibetan Buddhist monasteries form agglomeration centers in Diqing and Lijiang, in the northern part of the Longitudinal Ridge Valley, and southern Buddhist monasteries form major distribution areas in Dehong, Xishuangbanna, and other locations. The strip-shaped ethnic corridors formed by different ethnic groups based on geographical space have a high spatial fit with the distribution of Buddhist monasteries. The linear space, with the ancient road serving as an axis, has promoted interactive development of Buddhist monasteries of different sects. The mode of governance, influenced by institutional structure, has promoted changes in the distribution range of various monasteries in different historical periods, and changes in the relationships among the central government, local government, and Tusi system have altered agglomeration and distribution of Buddhist monasteries.

Key words: Buddhist monasteries, human-geographic environment, spatial differentiation, Buddhist geography, Yunnan Province

CLC Number: 

  • K901