“Book Culture in Buddhism and Beyond” Lecture Series: Manuscripts and Print Among Chan Buddhists During the Song Dynasty

Reading a sutra by moonlight. China, ca. 1332. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, www.metmuseum.org. Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982. Accession Number: 1982.3.2.

Speaker: Jason Protass, Brown University

Date and time: Monday, March 4th, 14:00

Location: Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College



Chan Buddhism is famous for not establishing dogmas in written words 不立文字. Yet, Chan Buddhists are equally famous for embracing woodblock print technology and for voluminous textual production from the Song dynasty onwards. Modern scholarly study of Chan has centered on the contents of such texts, and often presumes a sudden and total print revolution. In this talk, I focus on how manuscript and print cultures continued to coexist and intersect in Buddhist milieux of the Song Dynasty, and offer a tentative re-periodization of the spread of print in Chan circles. By understanding the role of manuscripts in how books were made and how they were used, this talk aims to recover a more fulsome picture of books among Chan Buddhists of the Song.


Speaker:Jason Protass is William A. Dyer, Jr. Assistant Professor of the Humanities and a faculty member of the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University, Rhode Island. Professor Protass is a researcher of Chinese Buddhism, whose publications include The Poetry Demon: Song-Dynasty Monks on Verse and the Way (2021) and essays such as “Buddhist Fund-Raising Poems and Other Lost Verses from Venerable Miaozhan’s Gāthā (Printed 1142).”


“Book Culture in Buddhism and Beyond” Lecture Series:

This new lecture series, launching in Michaelmas Term 2023, features talks on writing and publishing in the Buddhist tradition and in related religious and cultural spheres. Lectures in this series offer insights into the various ways in which writing and printing has been shaping Buddhism, as well as the multifaceted impact of Buddhism on book culture in East Asia, past, present, and future.


Registration is not required. The lectures are free and open to scholars, students, and the public.

Please note: all events take place in person at the University of Cambridge. Exact times and location will be circulated via email and posted on the webpage of Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

This lecture series is organised by Dr Noga Ganany (ng462@cam.ac.uk) in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge with the generous support of the Glorisun Global Network.


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