Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Abstract

The ‘alternative accounting’ movement since the mid-1970s inspired and enabled this study: to challenge the notion that accounting is value free and to understand accounting as a social and organisational practice. This study examines the relationship between Buddhism and accounting in historical China. Buddhism is a system of thought native to the Indian sub-continent and was introduced to China via the Silk Road. Buddhism, together with the mercantile spirit it brought, encountered, adapted to and conquered China. As a result, both were transformed. Buddhism became a force at all levels and in all spheres of society – culturally, politically and economically. Being interwoven into the social and historical fabric, accounting was inevitably influenced by this movement. Buddhist monasteries, being new institutions, brought a new rationale for the application of accounting and created a new rhetoric of accounting. Being reflective, monastery accounting reflected the unique environment in which it operated. So, the monastic accounts are a new ‘window’ enabling us to see a period of history: people and society – how they lived and how their lives revolved around the monasteries. Being constructive, monastery accounting as an integral part of the movement of Buddhism constructed a more complex notion of ownership, a central idea in accounting. Farmland, the most vital holding in an agrarian society, was transformed from a possession to use into a possession to exchange. This transformation led to a major tax reform, which subsequently entailed a change in accounting measurement in government accounting practice.

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