Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Accounting, Economics and Finance


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.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.