This dissertation examines the impacts of religious movements through a multi-layered study of the Buddhist renaissance that emerged in Taiwan in the 1980s. By examining this historically important development, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints that the movements encounter. This dissertation includes a recent history of rapid political liberalization and economic growth, the legalization of abortion and the expansion of women's rights, campaigns against human trafficking and prostitution, and the formation of the first lesbian group in Taiwan. I use two major research strategies: (1) a historical analysis of data and (2) a Hakka case study. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential, and that the courts, economic elites, or political parties are the main propelling agents causing institutional change. In general, these groups respond to the demands of movements, particularly the leverage brought to bear by feminist and religious movements. The Buddhist renaissance movement in Taiwan attempted to reestablish the broken lineages of nuns to confront challenges of inequality and injustice. By pressing for changes in traditions, the Buddhist movement has improved the Taiwanese legal culture and system, as well as the status of women in Taiwan.