GCBS Research Forum meeting, June 10, 2024, presentation by Mariia Lepneva

The last meeting of GCBS’s Research Forum for this academic year took place on June 10, at 4 pm. FWO postdoc Mariia Lepneva presented the paper that she will further discuss at the European Association of Chinese Studies conference in August. The details of the presentation are as follows:

Title: “The Dynamics of Chinese Buddhism during the Ming and Qing: Social Network Analysis Based on a Combined Dataset”

Abstract: This paper addresses the revival of Chinese Buddhism during the late Ming and early Qing with the use of social network analysis. It introduces an innovative approach for a partial use of the large-scale dataset “Historical Social Network of Chinese Buddhism,” which makes the research technically more feasible and creates new data for inclusion in the dataset. A portion of the data related to the historical period in question is extracted from the original dataset and combined with the new data gathered by the author from primary sources. Focusing on the problem of the periodization of the Buddhist revival, this research analyzes the differences that emerged in the graph with the introduction of the additional data as compared to Marcus Bingenhimer’s earlier take on this topic. The results for the first stage of Buddhist revival corroborate a recent scholarly suggestion that the rise of vibrancy in the Buddhist community might have started around the middle rather than the late sixteenth century. The layout for the second stage remains largely the same, as the additional data hardly touched upon the Chan lineages that dominated the seventeenth century. Finally, my network supports the neglected idea expressed in Japanese scholarship that the vibrancy of Chinese Buddhism did not fade away by the end of the seventeenth century but rather continued until the end of the eighteenth century. The conclusion of the paper introduces primary sources and directions for further research that can be pursued with the use of the innovative methodology suggested here.

2024 Lecture Series “Asian Buddhism: Text, Art, and Practice”

GCBS’s own professors and several invited guests will deliver talks in the framework of the  lecture series “Asian Buddhism: Text, Art, and Practice” (June 22-23, 2024) aimed at the GENERAL PUBLIC. Participation can be both in-person and ONLINE. For details, see below.

Vandenhove Pavilion, Ghent
JUNE 22 – 23, 2024

On the occasion of the Doctoral School “Chinese Buddhist Iconography and Manuscript Culture: Fieldwork Data and their Use in Pedagogical Contexts, with an Emphasis on Digital Resources”, Ghent University, a series of LECTURES FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC is organized at the exhibition center Vandenhove Pavilion by the Department of Languages and Cultures (Ghent University), with the generous support of the FROGBEAR project “From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions”.

The lectures can be both attended in person, or by online participation upon registration (please register before June 20).

SCHEDULE (might be subject to changes)

SATURDAY (June 22nd, 2024)
10:00 – 11:00
A sacred mountain of one’s own: Four inscribed landscapes by Zheng Daozhao (455-516) and their audience
Prof. Lia Wei (Inalco)

This presentation travels accross four inscribed landscapes by Zheng Daozhao (455-516), analysing the means adopted and motivations invoked by 6th century local official Zheng Daozhao to mark these mountains. The peculiar form of poetic activity practiced by Zheng – engraving bare cliffs in the mountains neighbouring the urban centers where he was on duty – builds upon funerary and religious practice of the medieval period, from the carving of an epitaph to commemorate his father, to the placing and symbolic construction of Taoist altars. The posterity of the four inscribed landscapes by Zheng Daozhao seems to be limited to a few interventions by his son Zheng Shuzu (485-565), and the sites were not visited or commented upon in the following centuries, which leads one to wonder whether this highly individualized endeavour could be understood as a historical failure. Even when Zheng’s inscriptions were integrated in the history of calligraphy by the 19th century Stele School, along with other northern epigraphic monuments, his oeuvre circulated mostly in the shape of rubbings. The inscribed landscapes have not been historically valued in their own right, as spatial installations to be experienced in situ, a gap that has impacted the modern heritagization of the sites. During the voyage proposed here in Zheng’s fours mountains, we will keep these questions in mind: How and why did Zheng mark the mountain?  Who was his audience – in medieval, late imperial and modern times – ?

Lia Wei is associate professor in Chinese art history at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco). She has been conducting research in China since 2009, with a focus on medieval Buddhist epigraphy and cave temples in Northeast China (Shandong, Hebei, Henan provinces) as well as funerary landscapes in Southwest China (Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hubei and Hunan provinces). She received her PhD with a thesis entitled ‘Highland Routes and Frontier Communities at the Fall of the Han Empire (2nd to 3rd century CE): A Comparative Study of Cave Burials South of the Yangzi River’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). In 2018-2021, she was based at the Department of Archaeology and Museum Studies in Renmin University of China. In parallel to her activity as an art historian/archaeologist, she practices seal carving and ink painting, and designs projects that combine academic and artistic research (Ink Art Week in Venice 2018, Lithic Impressions Venice 2018, Ink Brussels 2019, Les cinq couleurs de l’encre 2022, Pratique de l’estampage 2023).

11:00 – 12:00

Premodern conservation practice and political legitimacy: The Mogao Caves at Dunhuang during the Guiyijun Period (848–1036)
Michelle C. Wang (Georgetown University)

My paper explores renovations to the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang carried out during the Guiyijun Period (848–1036), in particular, the construction of wooden structures attached to certain cave façades. In doing so, my aims are twofold: first, I will argue for evidence of premodern conservation practice that coincided with the aspirations of the Cao clan, who ruled Dunhuang in 914–1036, for the longevity of their rule. Second, I develop ways of thinking about the Mogao Caves from a transhistorical perspective that considers the lives and afterlives of Buddhist sites.

Michelle C. Wang (Department of Art and Art History, Georgetown University) is a specialist in the Buddhist and silk road art of northwestern China, primarily of the 6th-10th centuries. Her first book Maṇḍalas in the Making: The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang (Brill, 2018) examines Buddhist mandalas of the 8th-10th centuries at the Mogao and Yulin Buddhist cave shrines in northwestern China. She has also written about art and ritual, miracle tales of animated statues, Buddhist materiality, the transcultural reception of Buddhist motifs, and text and image. Her current research examines the reception of medieval silk road sites during the Victorian era.



14:00 – 15:00
Japonism and Buddhism in Belgium at the beginning of 20th century
Dr. Lyce Jankowski (Curator of extra-European art – Royal Museum of Mariemont)

At the end of the 19th century, Emile Guimet opened a museum of history of religions – trying to fit Asian religious statuary into a global comparative approach of world religions. Three decades later, the Royal Museum of Mariemont opened its door to the public. Its founder, Raoul Warocqué (1870-1917) who bequeathed its entire estate and collection to the Belgian State in 1917, was an art collector with a taste for archaeology and Asian art among others. Buddhist art was pre-eminently displayed inside the museum but also outside. A 6 feet tall statue of an Amida Buddha as well as a thousand-armed Guanyin were placed in the park for visitors to enjoy – whereas in the museum, an Edo period Amida Buddha would sit opposite a gigantic statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and flanked by Indian divinities. The large collection of Buddhist artefacts acquired by Raoul Warocqué in Asia and in Europe at the turn of the century questions the meaning of these objects taken from their religious context and displayed in a private house, soon to be a museum. One need to approach them within the wider context of Japonism and question the “religious” meaning of them: some of these artefacts have been cast for export and are nothing more than collectables. The cultural appropriation of Buddhist art in Europe should also be put in perspective with positivism, which in the Belgium kingdom was linked to free-masonry. We will question the meaning of Buddhist statuary within the masonic room of the Royal Museum of Mariemont.

Lyce Jankowski holds a PhD (2012) in Art History from the Paris-Sorbonne University. She is curator of extra-European art at the Royal Museum of Mariemont in Belgium and was previously in charge of the East Asian coin collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Her last publication, co-edited with Alice Bianchi, is The Social Lives of Chinese Objects (Brill 2022). Her research interest is on the history of collections and the commodification of East Asian art in Belgium in 19th and 20th century. She is currently researching the provenance of the Buddhist art collection of the Royal Museum of Mariemont.




15:00 – 16:00
Appreciating nature through Buddhist art
Dr. Sau Ling Wendy Yu (Hong Kong University)

Buddhism holds all living things in equal regard, and thus, animals play a vital role in Buddhist scriptures. In the jātaka stories, for instance, the Buddha was reborn as different animals in his past lives, practising bodhisattva practices and accumulating merit. These stories, with their lively portrayal and profound morals, are widely loved by people. Plants are also prominently featured in Buddhist scriptures, with different sacred trees marking several essential stages in the life of the Buddha. Additionally, some animals and plants have symbolic significance in preaching the teachings of Buddhism. These narratives are typically vividly expressed through art. This lecture will lead the audience to explore the animals and plants in the Buddhist scriptures and appreciate the beauty of nature through the stories of the Buddha’s life and jātaka presented in Buddhist art. It also shares how to appreciate, respect and protect nature from a Buddhist perspective.

Sau Ling Wendy Yu holds a PhD in Buddhist Art from the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on exploring the aesthetic aspects of Buddhism as expressed through its art. Wendy believes that the combination of truth and beauty makes Buddhism even more compelling, and she is passionate about promoting this beauty through her research. Wendy is also an avid birdwatcher, bird artist and serves as an EXCO member of the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society. Her passion for birds extends into her research, where she specifically focuses on the bird imagery found in Buddhist art. One notable highlight of her academic journey is her thesis, which was an innovative, cross-disciplinary investigation of Pure Land birds integrating archaeological materials, textual evidence and ornithological knowledge. Birds preach the Dharma in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and Wendy acts as a bridge to share their fascinating stories with the world. Currently, Wendy works as a Research Assistant at the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong, where she is responsible for conducting research activities related to Buddhist art. Additionally, she volunteers as a docent at Tsz Shan Monastery Buddhist Art Museum and Hong Kong Palace Museum.

SUNDAY (June 23rd, 2024)
10:00 – 11:00
Caretakers and community: A sample of Chinese Buddhist temples in the Bangkok area in May 2023
Kira Johansen (Florida State University / Yale University)

The 2023 Cluster 3.4 Fieldwork Trip: Typologies of Text: Text-Image Relations in Bangkok, Thailand sought to explore the intersections of Buddhist cultures through the documentation of Chinese Buddhist temples throughout the Bangkok area. A topic not often touched upon in scholarship due to spatiotemporal boundaries and limitations, the Cluster 3.4 Fieldwork Trip brought to light the many nuanced levels of modern temple culture, specifically how temple caretakers play an active role in the community and the culture of the temple, and the identity of the temple itself. Many members throughout the fieldwork often defaulted to interviews with temple caretakers in an effort to glean more information about the history and communities of the temples for database input. In doing so, fieldwork participants came to discover that temple caretakers, within the scope of the fieldwork, often had an intimate relationship with the temples, sleeping in them, cleaning them, and in certain particular instances had their own special practices, like providing shows for the temple god to watch, as an example. Furthermore, temple caretakers managed intricate donor systems, and maintained donor information. In many of the temples, these donors were highlighted in inscriptions, and on seasonal materials (e.g. Chinese New Year laterns).  This proposal seeks to expound upon the roles of temple caretakers as uncovered during the 2023 Cluster 3.4 Fieldwork Trip in Bangkok, Thailand and specifically aims to identify ways in which temple caretakers encountered on the fieldwork are bastions of their respective temple histories and practices, and explores their specific and intimate relationship with the temples themselves.

Kira Johansen is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs and a concentration in Religion and French. Following her graduation from Florida State University in August of 2023, Johansen has been accepted and matriculated at Yale University as a Master’s candidate in East Asian Studies starting in the Fall of 2024. Johansen’s primary research focuses on translation and interpretation of the Biographies of Nuns, although she more broadly focused on medieval Chinese Buddhism, and Buddhist nuns. Recently, Johansen has been heavily involved in the University of British Columbia’s From the Ground Up: Buddhist and East Asian Studies (FROGBEAR) Cluster 3.4 Project: “Typologies of Text-Image Relations” as a fieldwork participant and metadata creator for Chinese temples in Bangkok, Thailand. She hopes to incorporate the fruits of this research into a larger research project in the future connecting Chinese diasporas and religiosity to the Thai religious landscape. Along with Christoph Anderl, Johansen is aiding in the compilation of an exhibition on Buddha’s life at the Mariemont Museum (September 2024 – April 2025).

11:00 – 12:00
Ants in vinaya texts: between India and China
Prof. Ann Heirman (Ghent University)

Buddhist texts generally prohibit the killing or harming of sentient beings. This is certainly the case in vinaya (disciplinary) texts, which contain strict guidelines on the preservation of all animal life. When these texts were translated into Chinese, they formed the core of Buddhist behavioural codes, and medieval Chinese vinaya masters, such as Daoxuan  (596–667), wrote extensive commentaries on them, introducing Indian concepts into the Chinese environment. But do these authors have anything to say about tiny creatures that are highly visible yet often neglected: ants?

Humans tend to consider ants as unwelcome pests, and as such frequently try to eliminate them. Yet, they are undoubtedly sentient beings that – according to Buddhist principles – should not be harmed or killed. In that sense, their actions affect human activities, pushing people to react.

This lecture explores what this complex relationship between ants and humanity implies for Buddhist monastics. First, it examines the Indian vinayas’ guidance on the subject of these crawling insects. In which contexts do they appear, and how do monastics perceive them? Second, it investigates how Chinese masters interpreted the guidelines contained within the Indian texts. How do they suggest devout Buddhists should deal with ants? How do they translate the Indian concepts, both linguistically and culturally, for their Chinese audiences? And which of Buddhism’s basic principles do they hold in the highest esteem?

Ann Heirman, Ph.D. (1998) in Oriental Languages and Cultures, is full professor of Chinese Language and Culture and head of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Ghent University in Belgium. She has published extensively on Chinese Buddhist monasticism and the development of disciplinary rules, including Rules for Nuns according to the Dharmaguptakavinaya (Motilal Banarsidass, 2002), The Spread of Buddhism (Brill, edited volume with Stephan Peter Bumbacher, 2007), A Pure Mind in a Clean Body (with Mathieu Torck, Academia Press, 2012), and Buddhist Encounters and Identities Across East Asia (Brill, edited volume with Carmen Meinert and Christoph Anderl, 2018).



14:00 – 16:00
Visualizing the Buddhist scriptures: An investigation into Transformation Tableaux in Mogao Cave 61 of Dunhuang
Prof. Christoph Anderl (Ghent University) and MA students of the Department of Languages and Cultures

In this lecture, MA students of the course “Buddhism: Text and Material Culture” at the Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University will present results of this term’s research topic, a selection of Transformation Tableaux in the 10th century Mogao Cave 61 of the oasis town of Dunhuang. Transformation Tableaux refer to large-scale visualizations of important Buddhist Mahāyāna sūtras, projected on the walls of Buddhist cave temples in Medieval China. This presentation is the result of group work, based on the collaborative effort of Belgian and Chinese MA students. It is the outcome of our research-oriented approach which aims to produce results which become visible “beyond the classroom”, either in the form of journal papers, entries in scholarly databases, or presentations for the general public.



Christoph Anderl (Ghent University)

Christoph Anderl specializes on medieval Chinese manuscript culture, Buddhist Chinese, and various topics related to the development and adaptation of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang and Five Dynasties periods. During the last years, his focus has been on the study of modes of representation of Buddhist narratives in textual and visual media, including methodological and theoretical issues concerning the interrelation of text and image. In this context, he has also acted as leader of the Research Cluster “Typologies of Text-Image Relations” in the large UBC-based interdisciplinary project “From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions”, with ca. 30 participating universities. In order to study text-image relations and modes of representations in specific contexts, he has organized several conferences/seminars, as well as conducted fieldwork in China and Bangkok, leading groups of participants from international universities. Anderl is also the editor-in-chief of a database of non-canonical Dunhuang texts and character variants found in Dunhuang texts and other materials of the medieval period, a long-term project conducted in collaboration with Asian and European universities. For current projects, see Professor Anderl’s profile at the research portal of the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Lecture “Bringing Buddha Down to Earth: Celebrating Śākyamuni’s Life in Mogao Cave 61 in Dunhuang”, by Christoph Anderl at Foguang Univesity, May 30, 2024

Centre for Buddhist Studies of Fo Guang University welcomes a guest lecturer from Ghent University in Belgium, who gives a talk about his research on Śākyamuni’s Life in Mogao Cave 61 in Dunhuang. Professor Christoph Anderl is a linguist specializing in classical Chinese and an expert in Dunhuang studies, particularly in textual studies.

Mogao Cave 61 is the main subject of today’s talk. The uniqueness of this cave lies in the wall painting representing a map of Wutai Mountain (五台山) instead of the Buddhist motifs typically found in other caves. Another highlight of this cave is the depiction of Śākyamuni’s life painted on the room’s bedrock, which includes captions containing Chinese texts from the 佛本行集經 (Sūtra of Buddha’s Life).

In the presentation, Professor Anderl begins with a visual tour of Cave 61 using a 3D reconstruction from the Digital Dunhuang website and introduces the basic information about this cave. Cave 61 was commissioned by Cao Yuan Zhong (曹元忠), an official of the Dunhuang area, for family use. The donors’ figures are painted at the entrance, including Cao Yuan Zhong, his wife, and their family members, mostly female.

The panels depicting Śākyamuni’s life in the cave cover stories from Buddha’s birth to his death. Unlike the common representation of Buddha’s life through the eight junctures (八相成道), much of the content focuses on Buddha’s princely life. It appears that the donors of this cave were particularly interested in Buddha’s life in the palace.

Professor Anderl then presents the texts written in the captions alongside the 佛本行集經, using two examples from panel 13, which describes the selection of Buddha’s stepmother, and panel 28, which describes Sujata’s offering of milk porridge. Comparisons between the Chinese text in the Taisho Canon and the captions show that the authors of the captions deliberately abbreviated the text with shorter key phrases to create a condensed version for storytelling within limited space. This condensation slightly changes the emphasis of the story and alters its understanding in a different way.

This finding leads to a discussion between Professor Hsin-Yi Lin and Professor Anderl regarding whether the authors intended to manipulate the original text and create a new reading material, effectively ending the presentation with many potential research questions.

GCBS Research Forum meeting, May 27, 2024, presentations by Jiahang Yu and Massimiliano Portoghese

On March 27, 2024, two talks for the Research Forum were given by Ph.D. students Yu Jiahang于佳航 and Massimiliano Portoghese who presented parts of their ongoing research projects at the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies. Please find the relevant details below:

Yu Jiahang’s talk:

  • Working Title: “A Linguistic Study of the Funeral Address for a Donkey in Dunhuang manuscript Or.8210/S.1477.”
  • Summary: The Dunhuang manuscript Or.8210/S.1477, titled Jilüwen yishou 祭驢文一首 (Funeral Address for a Donkey), was written by a frustrated and impoverished scholar during the late Tang dynasty and served as a tribute to his recently deceased donkey. The text adopts a semi-vernacular style remarkable for this period and genre, containing many colloquial words and phrases, thereby ensuring its accessibility to contemporary readers. This study examines S.1477 from multiple linguistic perspectives, including genre features, syntactic constructions, as well as the author’s use of classical allusions.
  • Context: The presentation is based on ongoing research that will eventually be presented at the EACS conference. Since Jiahang also aims to submit her paper for publication in the future, she would like to discuss aspects related to the structure of her presentation and article. In addition, she will introduce similar materials from Dunhuang to make connections with her larger research project.


Massimiliano Portoghese’s talk:

  • Working Title: “Why Did Śramaņas Take the Tonsure? Perceptions and Symbolism of Hairstyles in Ancient and Early Medieval China.”
  • Summary: This talk examines the symbolic and social significance of hair in pre-Buddhist China to enhance our understanding of the Buddhist-Confucian disputes during the Six Dynasties period regarding the practice of monastics shaving their heads.
  • Context: The presentation is based on ongoing research that will eventually be presented at the EACS conference. However, the talk is not meant as a mock talk in preparation for the venue. Instead, Massimiliano will try to show the material that he has collected so far and the new research paths he intends to address. He also intends to submit his paper for publication in the future.

Publication highlights (Q2 2024): “Perfect Awakening: An Edition and Translation of the Prāsādika and Prasādanīya Sūtras”, by Charles DiSimone

The Long Discourses, or Dīrghāgama, is a collection of the Buddha’s most well-known sermons that has circulated widely in the Buddhist world. Parallel collections in Pali and Chinese have long been known to scholars and practitioners, but it was not until the 1990s that a Mūlasarvāstivāda manuscript transmitted in Sanskrit was discovered, a major find with the potential to reshape our understanding of Buddhism in India and Central Asia. The present volume is the first in a three-volume series to present this rare manuscript, with a study, translation, and critical edition of two of the sūtras in the collection.

Around thirty years ago, a rare bookseller in London parceled out birchbark leaves of a manuscript bundle representing an ancient scripture that had likely been unearthed in the Gilgit region of Pakistan. Even as the fragile folios entered collections in Japan, Norway, and the United States, they were identified by a scholar as belonging to the previously lost Sanskrit Dīrghāgama, the Collection of Long Discourses of the Buddha, of the Mūlasarvāstivādins. Although the forty-seven separate sūtras in this āgama have parallel transmissions extant in the Pali Digha-nikāya and the Chinese Chang ahan jing, this Sanskrit witness, copied in the eighth century, was previously known only from partial quotations and from translations in Tibetan and Chinese. The discovery was thus one of major significance in the study of Buddhist literature.

Charles DiSimone‘s book, one of the first presentations of this manuscript in English, provides a translation, critical reconstruction, and study of two of the sūtras in the Dīrghāgama: the Prāsādika-sūtra and the Prasādanīya-sūtra. Both sūtras offer what appears to have been late teachings of the Buddha on the nature of faith and the preeminence of the Buddha over all other teachers. The Buddhist community was evidently concerned about the coming passing of the Buddha and, in these scriptures, laid the foundation for the tradition to continue with the Buddha at the center. The Prasādanīya-sūtra, in particular, is the locus classicus for the doctrine that only one Buddha and his teachings can exist in a world system at a time, ensuring that the Buddhist community would not be tempted to follow any other teacher who had not realized perfect awakening but would hold true to the Dharma of the Buddha.

These sūtras from the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition are made available to the public for the first time in over a thousand years with philological reconstructions and translations. They are accompanied by synoptic parallels from the corresponding Pali Long Discourses of the Theravāda tradition and the Chinese Long Discourses of the Dharmaguptaka tradition along with citations and related passages from elsewhere in Buddhist literature. In addition, the work contains a full transliteration of the birchbark folios, an introduction to the two sūtras with a study providing paleographic and textual analysis of the manuscript, and notes providing insight and explanation throughout.

Book information

  • Hardcover
  • 504 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN 9781614296539
  • This book will be available in August 2024 from Wisdom Publications

Guest lecture “Dreaming of Buddhahood—Measuring Bodhisattva Progress in Early Mahāyāna” by Yixiu Jiang, May 16, 2024

A guest lecture by Yixiu JIANG of Leiden University will take place on May 16 at 14:30 in Meeting Room Camelot (3.30), Campus Boekentoren, Blandij. The lecture is ogranized by GCBS’s Professor Charles DiSimone.

Title: Dreaming of Buddhahood—Measuring Bodhisattva Progress in Early Mahāyāna

Abstract: The gradual progress toward liberation—the path (mārga)—constitutes a central concern for almost all Buddhist discourse. The bodhisattva path, intended for those who aspire to buddhahood, is commonly presented within a scheme of ten stages or bhūmis. While most scriptures on the ten bhūmis describe a bodhisattva’s progress in terms of his virtues, one unique sūtra—the *Svapnanirdeśa (lit. “Teaching on Dreams”)—instructs bodhisattvas how to determine their current developmental stage through 108 kinds of dreams. This presentation will approach the concept of the bodhisattva bhūmis in early Mahāyāna from the new perspective that the Svapnanirdeśa provides.



GCBS Research Forum meeting, April 29, 2024, presentation by Nguyễn Khuông Hồng Ngọc

The meeting of the GCBS’s Research Forum took place on April 29, 2024. Our Ph.D. student Nguyễn Khuông Hồng Ngọc (a.k.a. Ruby) presented a draft paper of a research project submitted for consideration to the European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS) 25th Biennial Conference 2024 in Tallinn, and which will lay the groundwork for her Ph.D. dissertation. The working title of Ruby’s paper is as follows:

“Practical Learning (實學) and Its Influence on Educational Transformation in Eighteenth-Century Vietnam.”

Ruby’s primary objectives were: (1) to elucidate the mechanisms and resources through which Practical Learning was introduced to Vietnam, and (2) to elaborate on how Vietnamese confucians, on the basis of Practical Learning, criticized and transformed the state of education in the eighteenth century. She will focus on Lê Quý Đôn 黎貴惇 (1726–1784) who is at the center of her research, and try to bring an overall understanding about the context of education in eighteenth-century Vietnam.

PhD opportunity at the Ghent Centre for Buddist Studies

We are hiring! A four year doctoral fellowship is available in the European Research Council funded Gandhāra Corpora project led by Professor Charles DiSimone.

Please consider applying or sharing this with any recent MA graduates who are looking to continue their academic career in Buddhist Studies with a focus on Buddhist texts in classical languages. The fellow will join a great and welcoming team of international scholars. The application deadline is May 24. For further information and application guidelines, please visit the website of the Ghent University.

Titled “Corpora in Greater Gandhāra: Tracing the Development of Buddhist Textuality and Gilgit/Bamiyan Manuscript Networks in the First Millennium of the Common Era”, Professor Di Simone’s project centers on the study of large, recently discovered caches of highly significant early Buddhist manuscripts and their place in the body of works from Greater Gandhara. The philological, paleographical, codicological, and critical research conducted in this project will examine textual and material production, transmission, and relationship networks in the Buddhist manuscript cultures of Greater Gandhara and beyond in the first millennium of the Common Era.

Fieldwork of GCBS researcher Wen Xueyu

GCBS researcher Wen Xueyu just returned from China where she surveyed the Yungang and Longmen grottoes in the framework of her project on the development of apsara (feitian 飛天) iconography. During the fieldwork she collected a large number of photographs, including many 3D images.
Here, she kindly shares a few photos with us.
The Longmen cave complex as seen from the Yangtze River.
GCBS PhD researcher Xueyu Wen.


Main statue in Yungang Cave 13 (Maitreya).
The Southern wall of Yungang Cave 13.
The photo was taken inside Cave 13 of the, which was built between 471 and 494 CE. Between the window on the south wall and the entrance, in a large house-shaped niche, there are seven standing Buddha statues (the seven Buddhas of the past?).


Fieldwork concluding session (Cluster 3.4 of the FROGBEAR project), April 20, 2024

In April, final meetings of the various Research Clusters of the FROGBEAR project hosts the final meetings of its various Research Clusters under the general title “From the Ground to the Cloud: Insights from Seven Years of Fieldwork, Training, and Data Collection”. Among these is the concluding session of the Cluster 3.4 “Typologies of Text-Image Relations”, led by GCBS’s Prof. Christoph Anderl, which will convene on April 20th. If you are interested to participate, please register as soon as possible.

Time: 6:00-8:00am Vancouver | 9:00am-11:00am New York | 3:00pm-5:00pm Brussels | 9:00pm-11:00pm Beijing

Among else, the session includes presentations by three GCBS members:

Prof. Christof Anderl’s introductory talk “From the virtual to the physical, and back to the digital: Redefining fieldwork during and after the epidemic” will sum up the activities and research results of Cluster 3.4 during a period characterized by unpredictability and severe restrictions on physical mobility. The emphasis will be on the experiences made during the “virtual fieldwork” which was organized as response to severe travel restrictions during the lock-down periods. This will be contrasted to our “physical” presence in Bangkok when the research objects could be experienced with all our senses, rather than being projected on a two-dimensional screen. Both types of fieldworks naturally necessitated different approaches, as well as modifications in the scholarly and pedagogical methodologies applied in radically different contexts. However, both approaches eventually merged in the form of the digital data produced during and after the fieldwork activities, eventually being integrated in the Frogbear Database of Religious Sites in East Asia housed at the UBC Library.

Anna Sokolova and Massimiliano Portoghese will share their impressions from conducting fieldwork in Bangkok. In this presentation, actual “fieldworkers” will share their manifold experiences during their 10-day stay in Bangkok and – on a more objective level – reflect more generally on the status quo and future of Chinese temples in contemporary Thailand. We will discuss how Chinese temples are integrated into the urban landscape of contemporary Bangkok, how the temples link the interests of multiple social groupings in the area (such as between local residents and administrative units), how the temples have developed multiple extra-religious functions (such as turning into social gatherings/festivities/commemorative spots), and how the temples have engaged highly syncretic repertoires of the lore of deities and of their related ritual practices. Based on our field work experience, we will reflect on how the data that we have collected during our visits to the Chinese temples in Bangkok on the ground can be used to present the evolution of certain religious traditions in Thailand in a diachronically perspectives: in particular, we can trace how certain traditions commonly thought of as “authentically Chinese” have declined in certain areas over the last few decades, while other such traditions have flourished and/or merged with diverse popular believes and practices.