Tianzhu Activities 2017-2018

May 28-June 1st, 2018: Doctoral school on "Buddhism and Silk Culture" featuring Stuart Young as a guest lecturer.

(c)Stuart YoungThanks to Tianzhu, 5 international doctoral students will be able to use a travel stipend to attend this school. Below, please find an overview of the schedule. And click here for more information.

  • May 28 - June 1, 2018

Venue: het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent

  • DAY 1: Monday 28 May, 2018 (lunch break 12:00-13:30)

09:30: Welcome of the participants by the Doctoral School organizers (Ann Heirman, Christoph Anderl)
10:00 – 12:00: Course overview: Buddhism in the silk cultures of medieval China; The Chinese history, technology, and vocabulary of silk and sericulture* (lecture, with active participation)
12:00 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30 – 15:30: Research sources primary and secondary, textual, visual, and material; Archaeology of Chinese Silk, Dunhuang 敦煌 and Famensi 法門寺 (interactive presentation and discussion of sources)

  • DAY 2: Tuesday 29 May, 2018 (lunch break 12:00-13:30)

10:00 – 12:00: Vinaya and material culture (Ann Heirman)* (lecture with active participation)
12:00 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30 – 15:30: Silk in the Vinaya (disciplinary monastic rules) and Chinese Vinaya Commentaries (1: Dharmaguptaka)

  • DAY 3: Wednesday 30 May, 2018 (lunch break 12:00-13:30)

10:00 – 12:00: Silk in the Vinaya and Chinese Vinaya Commentaries (2: Sarvāstivāda and Mahīśāsaka)
12:00 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30 – 15:30: Discussion with students, Q+A

  • DAY 4: Thursday 31 May, 2018 (lunch break 12:00-13:30)

10:00 – 12:00: Daoxuan’s 道宣 (596-667) Xingshi chao 行事鈔 commentary on the silk bedding precept
12:00 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30 – 15:30: Daoxuan’s commentaries in comparison with Dajue大覺 (fl. 712)

  • DAY 5: Friday 1 June, 2018 (lunch break 12:00-13:30)

10:00 – 12:00: Chinese views of silk in India: travelogues, hagiographies, miracle tales (1)
12:00 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30 – 15:00: Chinese views of silk in India: travelogues, hagiographies, miracle tales (2)
15:00 – 16:00: Final discussions with students (Stuart Young, Ann Heirman, Christoph Anderl)

* Lectures also suitable for a more general audience (including PhD students of (art) history, etc.)


Tianzhu Fieldwork Fellowship: Daphne Stremus

Tianzhu provides funding for one Ghent University graduate student to travel to East Asia to do Buddhism-related fieldwork. We are happy to announce that for the academic year 2017-2018, this award has been given to Ms. Daphne Stremus, who will travel to Sichuan in August.

Daphne Stremus obtained a B.A. in Oriental Languages and Culture at Ghent University in 2017 and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Oriental Languages and Cultures. Daphne has a profound interest in China’s classical religions and philosophy and in 2018 she was awarded the Tianzhu scholarship, which provided her with the opportunity to enroll at Sichuan  University where she conducted fieldwork at Chengdu’s various religious sites. Being especially curious about the issues of women and gender in contemporary Buddhist monastic life, the main focus of Daphne’s research is on the nunnery of Jinsha (Jinsha An 金沙庵), located in Chengdu's Qingyang 青羊 district, which also hosts the famous Wenshu Monastery (Wenshu yuan 文殊院) and Aidao Nunnery (Aidao An 爱道庵). Jinsha currently houses a small community of about twenty nuns, but having witnessed the succession of thirteen generations, the nunnery is a landmark in the female history of Buddhism.


Long-term Visiting Scholars 2017-2018: Pu Chengzhong (Shanghai University, PRC)

Pu Chengzhong Length of Stay: March 23-May 25

Chengzhong Pu completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at SOAS, London University and did a one-year Post-doctorate with Professor Jonathan Silk at LIAS, Leiden University, followed by serving as an associate researcher for nearly a year at the Research Centre for Humanistic Buddhism, Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is currently a lecturer of Shanghai University. As a visiting scholar here at University of Gent, his current research topic is “A Preliminary Study of the Shi'er you jing (十二游经)”, trying to investigate this dubious Buddhist scripture through tracing some information in the text to Chinese Buddhist translations.


Long-term Visiting Scholars 2017-2018: Li Gang (Academia Turfanica, PRC)

Length of Stay: April 3-June 29 Li Gang

Li Gang obtained his PhD  from Minzu University of China. A Xinjiang native, he is currently Associate Professor at Academia Turfanica and the English-language chief editor for the journal Turfan Studies. As a member of the Association for Chinese Ancient Ethnic Characters, his research engages with with old Uighur and Turkic documents. In Ghent, Li Gang works on the classification and decipherment of Uighur Buddhist documents and Uighur cave inscriptions, work that will be useful for both the study of Uighur philology and Uighur Buddhism.


April 16-April 30, 2018: visiting scholar Dr. Hong Xiuping (Professor at Nanjing University, PRC)

Lecture (in Mandarin) on April 27th:

“从‘心’义种种看南宗禅的特色” [A variety of perspectives on the Southern Chan school's specificity, departing from the meanings of the character "Mind"]

创立于古印度的佛教传入中国以后,经过了一个不断的中国化过程,从思想理论看,主要是与中国原有的儒家思想和道家思想融合发展,形成了具有中国特色的中国佛教。六祖惠能所创的禅宗南宗就是中国佛教的典型代表。

南宗禅形成于佛教中国化的过程之中和中国禅的演化之中。从达摩到弘忍的禅宗“东土五祖”的禅法,“心”义不断变化,表现出两种倾向。从惠能与神秀的偈颂可以看出南北禅宗的差别。

传统佛教的“心”有多重涵义。惠能禅对传统佛教有许多革新,其核心是对“心”做了新的理解和发挥。从现存《坛经》的有关记载来看,惠能所言之心的涵义也是十分复杂的。南宗禅把人心和佛性统一于人们的当下之心。从惠能禅由“心”而展开的“无相、无念、无住”,可以看到惠能禅的当下之心是般若实相论与涅槃佛性论相结合的产物。

惠能的全部禅学理论都是围绕着人的解脱问题而展开的。从“心”的解脱到“人”的解脱,体现了南宗禅的发展。马祖的“平常心”突出了当下人的解脱。南宗禅的解脱强调的是自然解脱,从中体现出道家精神和中国特色。表现在禅修实践上,就是农禅并重,将禅修与运水搬柴、穿衣吃饭等日常生产和生活打成一片。

Translation of the first two paragraphs:

After Buddhism spread from ancient India to China, it underwent an unceasing process of change. From the perspective of ideas and discourse, it is essential to look at the development of how Buddhism mixed with native Confucianist and Daoist ideas to form a Chinese Buddhism with Chinese characteristics. The Southern school of Chan Buddhism, founded by the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, is a representative case of this Chinese Buddhism. The Southern school of Chan took shape in the middle of the sinification of Buddhism and in the middle of the development of Chan. From the Chan doctrines of the “Five Chinese Patriarchs,” the Chan lineage of Bodhidharma to Hongren, the meaning of the character “mind” continuously changed, exhibiting two tendencies. From the poems of Huineng and Shenxiu, we can discover the differences between the Northern and Southern Schools of Chan.

Prof. Dr. Hong Xiuping 洪修平 received his MA degree from the Department of Philosophy of Nanjing University (南京大学) in 1985 and his PhD degree from Fudan University in Shanghai (复旦大学) in 1988. He was senior visiting scholar in the United States (1994-1995), visiting professor at Freiburg University (2000) and in 2004-2005 Fulbright scholar at Harvard University. Hong Xiuping is currently professor at the Department of Philosophy (Religious Studies) at Nanjing University. Moreover, he holds a number of other positions such as Distinguished Professor of the Changjiang 长江 Scholars of the Ministry of Education, member of the Nanjing University Council, director of Nanjing University Library and director of the Institute of Chinese Philosophy and Religious Culture. Hong Xiuping is the author of numerous publications about Chinese philosophy and religious culture, such as 禅宗思想的形成与发展 (Formation and Development of Chan Buddhist Thought, 2011), 中国禅学思想史 (History of Chinese Chan Buddhist Thought, 2007) and 中国佛教文化历程 (The Course of Chinese Buddhist Culture, 2005).


March 2-March 12, 2018: visiting scholar Dr. Georgios T Halkias (Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong):

Lecture on Thursday March 8:

The Shitro Ceremony and Lay Tantric Buddhism in Amdo, Qinghai Province

Professional practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism belong either to the ‘red sangha’ (dge ‘dun mar po) that includes celibate nuns and monks who wear the maroon robes, or the ‘white sangha’ (dge ‘dun dkar po), a lay community of male and female tantrists or ngakpa (sngags pa / sngags ma; Skt. māntrin). The latter are also known as those who wear the ‘white cloth’ and have uncut ‘braided hair’ (gos dkar lcang lo can), two distinctive markers of lay, and usually non-celibate, tantric practitioners. It would be fair to say, that the ngakpa of Rebkong in the north-eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai province, are well known in the Tibetan cultural world for comprising the largest community of householder tantric practitioners.  In this presentation, I will briefly introduce the history of the Rebkong community of ngakpas that belong to the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, known as the Reb kong snangs mang (a group of tantrists from Rebkong), and share some audio-visual material and observations from my fieldwork participation in the ceremony of the ‘100 peaceful and wrathful deities,’ the Shitro (zhi khro), that took place in June 2017 at the village of Shakarlung in the district of Rebkong.

Dr Georgios T. Halkias is a specialist on Tibetan forms and practices of Buddhism in Tibet, Central Asia and the NW Himalayas. He completed his MA (Comparative Philosophy) at the University of Hawai‘i and his DPhil (Oriental Studies) at the University of Oxford. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Tibetan Buddhism at the Centre of Buddhist Studies, the University of Hong Kong. He has held several research posts at the Warburg Institute, at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, and has been a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellow at SOAS, University of London. Dr Halkias has authored many publications including a substantial monograph on the history and development of Pure Land Buddhism in Tibet, Luminous Bliss: a Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet. With an Annotated Translation and Critical Analysis of the Orgyen-ling golden Small Sukhāvatīvyūha-sūtra (Hawaii: University of Hawai‘i Press 2012) and various articles and book chapters. Dr. Halkias is currently researching the translation history of Buddhism in Tibet.