Lecture Series

Lectures at UBC:

September 2017: Wendi Adamek (Classics and Religion, University of Calgary) “Diving into Buddhahood: The Four Inversions at Shanyingshan and Baoshan

October 2017: Paul Groner (Religious Studies, University of Virginia)  “The Thirteenth Fourteenth Century Encounter of Chinese Tiantai and Japanese Tendai

October 2017: Sheng Kai (Philosophy Department, Tsinghua University) “The Philosophy and Practice of Buddhist Confession in the Song Dynasty


Lectures at Princeton University:

April, 2017. Silk Road Forum.

A public event with lectures in English and Chinese by two keynote speakers (Susan Whitfield, International Dunhuang Project; DU Doucheng, Lanzhou University) and responses by two visiting scholars (YU Xin, Fudan University; Annette Juliano, Rutgers University). Attendance: 105. Forum website:
To learn more, click here.

The Silk Roads: Leading Us Astray?

Susan Whitfield, IDP, The British Library

Response by Xin YU, Fudan University

Is the Silk Road a meaningful or misleading concept for our understanding of pre-modern Afro-Eurasia? How has its emergence as a worldwide brand and, most recently, as a politico-economic strategy, threatened or assisted scholarship? Should we reject or embrace it? Susan Whitfield will consider these questions, looking at the origin, history and growth of the Silk Road concept and its modern manifestations.

The Ancient Silk Road in Light of New Discoveries in Gansu

Doucheng DU, Lanzhou University

Response by Annette Juliano, Rutgers University

The overland Silk Road may have been opened in ancient times, the maritime route may have developed long before the Song dynasty, and political and military interests may have been stronger than economic ones. This talk introduces recent discoveries in Buddhist archaeology in Gansu province against this historical background.

Lectures at Yale University:

March 2017. David Gellner.

“Modernity & Agency: How Activisits reconstructed Nepali Society “
Latour’s ideas and terminology have been widely influential within social and cultural anthropology, even amongst those who are not inclined to follow Actor-Network-Theory. Latourian vocabulary for describing the modernity we have never had is acceptable and often suggestive, but Latour’s attack on individual and collective human agency is particularly ill suited to explaining the rise of new kinds of identity. I describe the rise of new ‘ethnic’ and ‘macro category’ identities in Nepal and suggest that the analysis applies to many other social identities as well. I argue that activists are masters and mediators of Latourian ‘hybridity’.

April 2017. Jinping Wang (National University of Singapore)

In the Wake of the Mongols: The Making of a New Social Order in North China, 1200-1600
In the two decades between 1211 and 1234, the Mongols swept through North China under the Jurchen-Jin dynasty (1125-1234), waging the most destructive war in the history of imperial China. Wiping out more than half of the population and ruining much of the farmland, the Mongols destroyed the underpinnings of the entire society in North China and caused the old order to collapse. From the early years of their conquest, instead of relying on Confucian-educated literati to rebuild local society like the Jurchens had done, the Mongols shifted financial and political support to Quanzhen Daoist and Buddhist religious orders, making their clergy one of the most powerful social groups. Men from different social levels, and a surprising number of women as well, assembled in the Buddhist and Daoist orders and played significant roles in rebuilding postwar society, reviving the economy, and reshaping social values. Clergy and their religious institutions acquired sufficient power to occupy considerable social space between family and state, which led to the emergence of a new social order in North China beginning in the Mongol-Yuan period and extending well to the following Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This distinctive social order is utterly different from the scholarly image of a literati-centered local society in imperial China after the eleventh century.

November 2017. Hao Chunwen (Capital Normal)

Interactions between Indian and Chinese Culture in Buddhist Monasteries in 9th-10th Century Dunhuang

Traditional Community Associations (she 社) and Buddhism in Medieval China
This paper is a preliminary study of the relationship between traditional community associations in villages, towns, and cities that originally involved semi-annual sacrifices and the Buddhist religion during the Wei, Jin, Northern-Southern, Sui and Tang dynasties (fourth-tenth centuries). It reveals that during Jin, Southern-North-ern and Sui, the main conflict between the early associations and Buddhist monks concerned the killing of ani-mals. It further shows that later, in the seventh-tenth centuries, the two traditions came to a less confrontational arrangement, involving mutual understanding and assimilation. In the earlier stage, Buddhist monks fought against Chinese traditional culture, trying to persuade village associations to accept foreign ideas and give up traditional practices. This changed during the second stage, when monasteries and monks adopted a more co-operative attitude. The lecture addresses the problem of taking life in Buddhism and Chinese culture, Confucian values, debates over the making of statues, mortuary practice, monasticism, and the conflict of cultures. Evidence is drawn from stone stelae inscriptions, biographies and histories, as well as manuscripts.




November 2017. Sheng Kai (Tsinghua University)

The Philosophy and Practice of Buddhist Confession in the Song Dynasty”
During the Tang and Song dynasty, Chinese Buddhism underwent a great change, from theory investigation to religion practice. Buddhism in the Song dynasty showed a great orientation toward practice. Confession practices prevailed widely among Tiantai members, and confession ritual procedures were also produced during this time. Jingyuan(1011-1088), a revivalist scholar of Huayan School, had to make efforts to implement the ideas of his own school in order to keep up with the trend. Huayan School lacked a practical aspect. Jingyuan edited Xiuzheng yi, reducing eighteen fascicles into one. However, this work actually reduced the characteristics of Huayan Confession itself, which emphasizes contemplation and thought. The Confession not only constituted a ritual that eliminates individual transgressions and karma, it also included rituals that aim at higher goals. At that time, with particular concerns in the background of “Protecting the Nation via Buddhism” (Guojia Fojiao), it transformed into a ritual that eliminates common karma, in order to protect the nation. In the Song periods, Buddhist communes or societies continued to develop. They brought together various beliefs, and became a type of community united by Confession practices. Under the influence of Confession practices, Chinese Buddhism became popularized and socialized in this period.