The Chinese Inner Studies Institute 支那內學院
Zhīnà nèixué yuàn; also called the Chinese Metaphysical Institute
Known as Dharmalakṣaṇa University 法相大學 from 1925
The Chinese Inner Studies Institute 支那內學院 was one of the most important centers of Buddhist learning in China. It was headed for many years by Ōuyáng Jiàn 歐陽漸 and Lǚ Chéng 呂澂. The curriculum focused on Dharmalakṣaṇa and Consciousness-Only 法相唯識 thought. In July 1925, the school was expanded and renamed Dharmalakṣaṇa University 法相大學.
Preparations for the institute began in 1918, and it was opened in 1922 by Ōuyáng Jiàn 歐陽漸 and Lǚ Chéng 呂澂 on the grounds of the Jinling Scriptural Press 金陵刻經處 in Nánjīng 南京. It was one of the most important centers of Buddhist learning in China, along with the Wǔchāng Buddhist Seminary 武昌佛學院 established by Tàixū 太虛 in the same year.
The building where the institute was based was said to have belonged to the younger brother of Méi Guāngxī 梅光羲, one of Ōuyáng's supporters. Funding came from Zhāng Tàiyán 章太炎 and Zōngyǎng 宗仰. The institute held classes, focusing mainly on Dharmalakṣaṇa and Consciousness-Only 法相唯識 thought, which were composed mainly of laypeople.
In July of 1925, this school was expanded and renamed Dharmalakṣaṇa University 法相大學. Although it was partially funded by Liáng Qǐchāo 梁啓超, Xióng Xīlíng 熊希齡, and Yè Yùfǔ 葉玉甫, the University was also the first Chinese institute dedicated to the study of Buddhism that received funding from the government during the Republican period, in its case in the form of contributions taken out of the taxes collected in Jiāngsū 江蘇.
From 1924 to 1928 the institute published the periodical Inner Studies 內學. In 1937 the institute moved to Sichuan where it operated as a "branch institute" 內學院蜀院. After Ōuyáng's death in 1943, Lǚ Chéng continued its operation until it closed in 1952.
In the early 20th century, Zhīnà 支那 was a relatively neutral name for "China" and was widely used throughout East Asia and the world. It has since become viewed as a pejorative term by many in China. In 1949 the institute changed its name to 中國內學院. Nèixué 內學 is a Buddhist term that refers to the study of Buddhist matters, as opposed to wàixué 外學, the study of non-Buddhist matters. The name of the institute has also been translated as the (Chinese) Metaphysical Institute.