Dunhuang and Silk Road Seminar: Easter Term 2023

Dunhuang & Silk Road Seminar Series, 2023

Dates: Easter Term (May-June 2023)


We hold a series of talks each term whose overall theme links with Dunhuang and/or the Silk Road.

These take place in-person and, where possible, are streamed via Zoom (requires pre-registration).

All talks are on Thursdays and will begin at 5pm UK Time, lasting an hour with time allocated afterwards for questions, debate, and discussion.

Except as noted below, all talks take place in Room 9 of the Sidgwick Site Lecture Block.

We welcome listeners from all fields who feel that these talks may help their own research or who are curious to know about the diverse topics covered.

You can also see some of our recorded talks on YouTube

This seminar series is organised by Prof. Imre Galambos with the generous support of the Glorisun Global Network and Dhammachai International Research Institute.


Location NoteKindly refer to the map for directions. Please note that the room is located on the third floor of the building. There is a lift available on the left after entering through the main door. 


Seminar Schedule

Thursday, May 11, 2023 in Room 9 (Lecture Block) CB3 9DA or Zoom (please follow this link to register)
Prof. Chris Jones, Cambridge University
Buddha-nature Between India and China: Analysing the Creative Trans- lation Work of Dharmaksema in the Early Fifth Century

: The fifth-century Buddhist author Tanwuchen 曇無讖 (385–433), whose Indian name is usually reconstructed as Dharmakṣema, is best known for having translated the monumental ‘Niepan jing’ 涅槃經 (Taishō 374): the longer and more influential translation into Chinese of what in India was the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa(mahā)sūtra. His oeuvre also includes a Chinese version of the Mahāmeghasūtra (Taishō 387), which together with the Mahāparinirvāṇa has been considered a formative work in the development of buddha-nature teaching in India, associated with the enigmatic term tathāgatagarbha (Ch. rulaizang 如來藏). With a focus on versions of the Mahāmeghasūtra, of which a recently discovered Sanskrit manuscript is currently being edited, this paper reassesses the place of both of these Mahāyāna discourses in the early life of teaching about buddha-nature. We will see evidence that much of what is received about buddha-nature in fifth-century China may not have a firm basis in Indian literature, and instead owes a debt to interpolations and interpretations that were perhaps supplied by Dharmakṣema’s own hand.

Biography: Chris Jones is a Research Associate of Selwyn College, and teaches at the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University. His work focuses on Mahāyāna Buddhist literature of the early Common Era, as extant in Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan sources. Among other work, he is author of The Buddhist Self: On Tathāgatagarbha and Ātman (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2021), as well as editor of Buddhism and Its Religious Others: Historical Encounters and Representations (OUP, 2022).


Thursday, May 18 , 2023
No seminar this week


Thursday, May 25, 2023, 17:10, in Room 9 (Lecture Block) CB3 9DA or Zoom (please follow this link to register)
Location NotePlease note that the room is located on the third floor of the building. There is a lift available on the left after entering through the main door.
Dr. Dror Weil, University of Cambridge
Polyglossia, Trans-local Materialities and Textual Performability: Jewish Texts in Early Modern China

Abstract: The “Silk Roads” framework has been very successful in shedding light on the multi-cultural landscapes of Asia and the vibrant intra-Asian exchanges of peoples, texts, artefacts, and ideas mainly during the first millennium CE. Very little, however, has been suggested about the ways by which this early multiculturalism and intra-Asian exchanges played out in the second millennium CE. Liturgical texts and inscriptions’ rubbing from the Jewish synagogue in Kaifeng, China, as well as the notes left by European missionaries who visited the place, offer a rather rare glimpse into the textual archive of a religious community at the heart of early modern China and its intra-Asian roots. In addition to an overview of the history of the Jewish community in Kaifeng, this talk will shed light on the unique features of this community archive. It will discuss the interweaving of Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic and Chinese in its texts, the distinctive material choices and classifications, and the modes of articulation and performability that are embedded in the available records of this community.

Biography: Dror WEIL is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge. His publications focus on scientific, medical, and other textual exchanges between the Islamicate world and China during the late medieval and early modern periods. His publications include a co-edited volume Premodern Experience of the Natural World in Translation (Routledge, 2022); “Islamicated China – China’s Participation in the Islamicate Book Culture during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Intellectual History of the Islamicate World (2016); “Chinese-Muslims as Agents of Astral Knowledge in Late Imperial China” (2022) and “Collation and Articulation of Arabo-Persian Texts in Early Modern China” (2023).


Thursday, June 1, 2023
Dr. Francesco Bianchini, University of Cambridge
How “Public” was Buddhism’s Engagement with Medicine? Sketches from Pre-1400s Asia


Thursday, June 8 , 2023
No seminar this week


Thursday, June 15, 2023 in Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Prof. Georgios Halkas, University of Hong Kong
The Encounter of Hellenism with Buddhism: A Tale of Conversion and Cultural Diffusion


Friday, June 23, 2023 in Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Mr. Daniel Sheridan, University of Cambridge
The Sogdian Christian Presence along the Silk Roads


For further information, enquiries, and comments, or to join the seminar e-mail list contact:

Junfu Wong
PhD candidate
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

E-mail: jw2034@cam.ac.uk


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