Creating a Buddhist Community

A Thai Temple in Silicon Valley

Jiemin Bao
Book Cover

PB: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0955-3
Publication: Apr 15

HC: $90.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0954-6
Publication: Apr 15

Ebook: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0956-0

208 pages
5.5 x 8.25
2 tables, 3 figs., 8 halftones

How a Thai Buddhist temple in northern California created a dynamic community that bridges national, racial, ethnic, religious, and gender differences

Read the Introduction (pdf).


The Wat Thai Buddhist Temple in Silicon Valley was founded in 1983 by a group of predominantly middle-class men and women with different ethnic and racial identities. The temple, which functions as a religious, social, economic, educational, and cultural hub, has become a place for the community members to engage in spiritual and cultural practices. In Creating a Buddhist Community, Jiemin Bao shows how the Wat Thai participants practice Buddhism and rework gender relationships in the course of organizing temple space, teaching meditation, schooling children in Thai language and culture, merit making, fundraising, and celebrating festivals. Bao’s detailed account of the process of creating an inclusive temple community with Thai immigrants as the majority helps to deconstruct the exoticized view of Buddhism in American culture. Creating a Buddhist Community also explores Wat Thai’s identification with both the United States and Thailand and how this transnational perspective reimagines and reterritorializes what is called American Buddhism.


"(T)he focus of Bao’s book fills a niche by illuminating the range of activities and practices that take place at an American Buddhist temple.... There are detailed descriptions of the space and people that make up Wat Thai, and the reader gets a vivid sense of this community.... (A) good ethnography.... The words of the informants are used evocatively, and the main themes of the book—gender, race, class, economic and religious capital, inclusion, and identity—are woven deftly throughout."
— Journal of Asian Studies

" Creating a Buddhist Community explores the founding and development of a Thai Buddhist temple in Silicon Valley with an eye toward how the temple functions as a social, economic, and cultural hub. The book’s greatest strengths are the detailed stories it presents about the ways people interact with the temple in terms of their physical work, education, and financial relationships. Bao has clearly spent significant time in the field and knows this community very well." —Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University and author of Heartwood: The First Generation of Theravada Buddhism in America

Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments 1 Introduction: A Community in the Making 2 Creating a Temple Community 3 Erecting a Chapel: Carving Out Cultural Space 4 Monks in the Making 5 Merit Making: Transnational Circuits 6 Shaping and Performing Thai American Identities 7 Conclusion: Interaction, Interdependence, and Transformations Notes Glossary References Index

About the Author(s)

Jiemin Bao is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the author of Marital Acts: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity among the Chinese Thai Diaspora.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.