Tianzhu Activities 2018-2019

Visiting Scholar 2018-2019: Lei Hanqing

Photo Lei Hanqing Hanqing, Lei graduated from Fudan University at the School of Chinese Language and Literature. He was a visiting scholar at UC Irvine in 2011, and at the Research Institute of Zen at Hanazono University in Japan. Currently, he is a professor at the School of Literature and Journalism at Sichuan University, a researcher in the Institute of Chinese Folk Culture, and a PHD student supervisor in Chinese philology, linguistics and applied linguistics.

As a visiting scholar here at University of Gent, his current research topic is the study of Zen literature and language (especially the language of Zen in Tang and Song Dynasties). During the visit, he will consult European scholarship on Zen language and write article manuscripts on this topic.

Short-term visiting scholar (3-17 March 2019): Prof. dr. Albert Welter (University of Arizona)

Albert Welter

  • Lectures:

“Integrating Buddhism into Chinese Culture or How Did Buddhism Become Chinese? Buddhist Junzi (法門君子) & The Administration of Buddhism." Within the framework of a lecture series integrated in the MA course ‘Culture in Perspective: South and East Asia lecture‘

The question of Buddhism’s role in Chinese culture and society was raised when Buddhism first entered China in the first century, and has persisted down to the present day. Throughout its history in China, Buddhism endured the vicissitudes of imperial politics, courting the favors of the emperor and well-placed members of the cultural elite, on the one hand, while inviting the wrath of its detractors, on the other. This presentation explores a Buddhist response to these challenges through an examination of the Buddhist literati-monk Zanning’s 贊寧 (919-1001) Topical Compendium of the Buddhist Clergy (sometimes translated as Brief History of the Sangha) compiled in the Great Song dynasty (Da Song Seng shilüe 大宋僧史略; CBETA T vol. 52, no. 2126), written at the request of Song emperor Taizong 太宗 (r. 976-997). The paper details Zanning’s argument for accepting Buddhism as a Chinese (rather than foreign) religion, as reflecting and enhancing native Chinese values rather than conflicting with them (as its detractors claimed). A number of subjects addressed in the Topical Compendium are addressed–– the performance of Buddhist rituals at state ceremonies, the inclusion of Buddhist writings in Chinese wen 文 (letters or literature), proper Buddhist customs and practices and their contributions to the aims of the Chinese state, and the epitome of integration of Buddhist elite into the Confucian ideal of gentlemanly civility, the Buddhist junzi 法門君子.

This lecture was integrated in ‘Culture in Perspective: South and East Asia’, an MA course in the spring term curriculum of Oriental Languages and Cultures. The purpose of this course is to confront students with different research fields in the study of East Asian and South Asian history, culture, economics and politics by means of twelve lectures by national and international scholars. The course is taken up by students majoring in Chinese, Indian, and Japanese studies.

“A New Look at Old Traditions: Reimagining East Asian Buddhism through Hangzhou.” Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies lecture series Permanent Training in Buddhist Studies.
The history of Buddhism incorporates East Asia in meaningful ways, but still tends toward Indo-centrism in its overall conception. This makes sense when one considers India as the birthplace and homeland of Buddhism and the development of key teachings and traditions. Yet, the history of Buddhism covers 2500 years, and for the last 1000 years or more, India has ceased to be a significant source of Buddhist inspiration, and figures primarily in passive memory rather than as active agent. This is especially true in the case of China, which actively reimagined Buddhism in unique and indigenous ways to form an intrinsically authentic form of East Asian Buddhism.

Hangzhou, a former capital of China during the Song dynasty (960-1278), was the focal point for these developments. From the Hangzhou region, new forms of Buddhism spread throughout East Asia, especially to Japan and Korea. As a result, when we speak about East Asian Buddhism today, we are largely speaking about forms of Buddhism that were initiated in Hangzhou, and adopted and adapted in other regions and time periods. The most prominent among these is Chan Buddhism, known in Japan as Zen and Korea as Sŏn, the practice of which from the 10th century on is indebted to Buddhist developments in Hangzhou.

The presentation reviews how the history of Buddhist Studies has neglected and marginalized East Asian Buddhism and the role of the greater Hangzhou region. It suggests how the Hangzhou region became a Buddhist center, a new Buddhist homeland, and a hub for interactions with Korea and Japan that were instrumental in the development of unique forms of East Asian Buddhism.

  • Text reading seminar (with PhD students)·    

Short-term visiting scholar (1-10 June 2019): Prof. dr. Li Yu-chen 李玉珍 (National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan)

Yu-Chen Li Dr. Yu-chen Li received her Ph.D. degree in 2000 from Cornell University.  She is currently the chair of the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Cheng Chi University. Yu-chen Li focuses on gender issues in Buddhism,  such as the development of Bhiksuni sangha and Buddhist interaction with local culture through women. Her recent research deals with the conversion process of vegetarian women to Buddhism in 20th century Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Yu-chen Li published numerous works such as The Buddhist Nuns in Tang Dynasty, The Narrative of Sexuality and Desire among Sacred/Ordinary Men and Women, and Buddhism and Women in Postwar Taiwan, as well as  more than 40 papers. Professor Li will contribute to the Doctoral School Specialist Course "Women and Nuns in Chinese Buddhism" (3-6 June 2019) as guest lecturer.

Long-term visiting scholar (15 March-12 June 2019): Prof. dr. Lin Ching-hui 林靜慧 (The Chung-hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, Taiwan)                             

Lin Ching-hui Lin Ching-hui received her PhD from the Chinese Culture University (Taipei). Her dissertation is titled A study of political views in Laozi, Zhuangzi and The Yellow Emperor's Four Classics. She is project assistant at the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal  Arts. Currently she works as an editor for the Database of Medieval Chinese Texts Project. Lin Ching-hui is also Assistant Professor at the Department of Chinese Literature of the Chinese Culture University.

Tianzhu Fieldwork

Jasper Roctus

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 2018-2019, this award has been given to Jasper Roctus (MA student Chinese Language and Culture).· 

Jasper Roctus is a Dutch student at Ghent University's faculty of Arts and Philosophy. After finishing his bachelor of "Oriental languages and Cultures: China" with summa cum laude honors in 2018, Jasper is currently pursuing his master studies. Jasper has proven himself able to deal with complex and difficult materials including pre-modern Buddhist texts and manuscripts. For his MA course "Buddhism: Text and Material Culture", Jasper has translated and interpreted some of the Baodingshan 宝顶山 rock carvings, connecting it to a historical framework of the development of filial piety in Chinese Buddhism. Jasper will prepare for his participation in the FROGBEAR “From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions” Dazu 大足 field research of May 2020 and will be going on exchange to the Renmin University (人民大学) in the People’s Republic of China during the fall semester of 2019.


Doctoral school specialist course: (3-7 June 2019) on "Women and Nuns in Chinese Buddhism"

Date: June 3–7, 2019
Venue: Het Pand (Ghent University)

The Doctoral School’s specialist course focused on “Women and Nuns in Chinese Buddhism”. While adopting a diachronic perspective, it gave ample space to the twentieth and early twenty-first century. It offered students insight into the status of Chinese Buddhist nuns and women in contemporary Chinese society and within the Buddhist world as a whole. This specialist course contributes to the FROGBEAR project.

For more information, click here.

Doctoral School Special Guest Lecture: Prof. dr. Natasha Heller (University of Virginia)

Natasha Heller

The Tianzhu Academic co-sponsored a Special Guest lecture by prof. dr. Natasha Heller (Associate Professor of Chinese Religions, University of Virginia). This was a Hot Topic Lecture forming part of the Doctoral School "Women and Nuns in Chinese Buddhism"

Title "The Uneven Terrain of Gender and Diversity: The View from the Humanities"

June 6, 2019; 19:00-21:00

Ghent University, Auditorium P (Zaal Jozef Plateau), Campus Boekentoren.


Despite oft-expressed commitments to diversity, American institutions of higher learning remain centered on white men.  If we agree that the academy would better serve its purpose with a more diverse faculty, how is such an aim achieved?  In this talk I will consider how we talk about gender, diversity, and inclusion, and what these terms mean for different stages and dimensions of academic life.  Through case studies of the disciplines of Religious Studies and Asian Studies, I will consider how the issues of gender and diversity vary in different fields of study—and what this might teach us about the challenges of transforming the academy into a more inclusive space.


Natasha Heller is a scholar of Chinese Religions, currently working on contemporary Buddhist children’s literature. At the University of Virginia, she chaired the Faculty Senate committee on Diversity and Inclusion this year. She is also a founder of the website Women in the Study of Asian Religions (wisar.info), which seeks to address the gender imbalance at conferences and lecture series. But, as she notes, her real qualification is being the only woman in the room on too many occasions.