Long-term visiting scholar (April 1 – June 30, 2024): Prof. Yang Gang 杨刚 (Inst. of Dunhuang Studies, Lanzhou University)

Prof. Yang Gang 杨刚 received a joint PhD from Sichuan University and Ghent University and was a visiting scholar at the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg. He is now an associate professor at the Institute of Dunhuang Studies of Lanzhou University (兰州大学敦煌学研究所). His main areas of research are the primary sources of Chinese Buddhism and the secularization of Buddhism. During the previous five years, he has published academic papers in such journals as Studies in World Religions (世界宗教研究, CSSCI), Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities (西南民大学报, CSSCI), Journal of Dunhuang Studies (敦煌学辑刊 (CSSCI), Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae (A&HCI), Chinese Studies in History (A&HCI), and Religions (A&HCI).

Professor Yang Gang against a city landscape

Long-term visiting scholar (September 2023 – August 2024): Dr. Yi Ding (DePaul University)

Dr. Yi Ding received his bachelor’s degree from Fudan University (2008) and his PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University (2020). He is currently Assistant Professor at DePaul University.

As a scholar of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, he has published several articles that deal with Buddhist materials from Dunhuang and Sino-Tibetan Buddhism. As a voluntary researcher at Ghent, he works on finalizing a book manuscript that focuses on various forms of Buddhist feasts and observances in medieval China.

Short-term visiting scholar 2019–2020: Prof. Dr. James A. Benn (McMaster University, Canada)

Professor James A. BENN was trained primarily as a scholar of medieval Chinese religions (Buddhism and Taoism).  His research is aimed at understanding the practices and world views of medieval men and women, both religious and lay, through the close reading of primary sources in literary Chinese—the lingua franca of East Asian religions. He has concentrated on three major areas of research: bodily practice in Chinese Religions; the ways in which people create and transmit new religious practices and doctrines; and the religious dimensions of commodity culture. In particular James A. Benn has worked on self-immolation, Chinese Buddhist apocrypha, and the religious and cultural history of tea.

With the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation Professor Benn participated in the Kosmoi Conference titled “Good – Better – Best. Asceticism and the Way to Perfection” and organized at the Catholic University of Leuven (October 21–23, 2019). The title of his paper is: “Is Buddhist Self-immolation a Form of Asceticism?”


This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.

Long-term visiting scholar 2019–2020: Prof. Dr. Xuan Fang (Renmin University, China)

Professor XUAN Fang 宣方 is a research fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Religion, Renmin University of China, as well as the executive member of Journal of Religion. His main academic interests focuse on Chinese Buddhist meditative tradition and Modern Chinese Buddhism, particularly Humanistic Buddhism (renjian fojiao), in which fields he published a book and more than 40 articles including. Furthermore, he is also guest professor of many Buddhist academic institutes such as the Institute of Chinese Buddhist Culture, Institute of Peking Buddhist Culture, Peking University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Xiamen University, and Yunnan University. Xuan Fang will give lectures, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics and at various levels during his stay at Ghent University (6 January–3 March 2020). He will also closely cooperate in the framework of the current research projects.

Professor Xuan gave the following lecture:

“From Tranquility (ji 寂) to Illumination (zhao 照): The Jizhao Temple in the Context of Social Changes in Dali Prefecture” (由寂而照:社会变迁中的寂照庵)(26 February 2020)

The lecture focused on an unknown Buddhist nunnery suddenly going viral, through which Dr Xuan tries to draw the outline of the revival process of Buddhist nunneries in Post-Mao China. This lecture was part of the Buddhist Studies Lecture Series 2019–2020.

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.

Long-term visiting scholar 2019–2020: Dr. Lia Wei (Renmin University, China)

Dr. Lia WEI is currently based at the Department of Archaeology and Museum Studies in Renmin University of China, conducting research and teaching on the archaeology of culture contact and the intersection between intangible and material cultural heritage, as well as contributing to several research-oriented, educational or curatorial collaborations between Renmin University and European partners (Université de Genève, Ghent University).

Dr. Wei 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), University of London.

In parallel to her work as an art historian and archaeologist, she engages in practice-based research or creative practices and designs projects that combine academic and artistic research. She was trained in calligraphy, sigillography and landscape painting at the China Academy of Art (Hangzhou 2007) and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (Chongqing 2008), and recently coordinated a series of events combining conferences and exhibitions in the field of ink painting, literati art and antiquarianism, in particular rubbing techniques (Ink Art Week in Venice 2018, Lithic Impressions Venice 2018, Ink Brussels 2019).

During her stay at Ghent University (18 January–3 A¨pril 2020) Dr. Wei will conduct an elaborate program of lectures and workshops centering on the following topics: landscape painting, antiquarianism, ink art, calligraphy and seal carving. Dr. Wei’s visit and program in Ghent are generously sponsored by the Tianzhu Foundation.

Dr. Lia Wei will give a series of lectures and workshops supported by the Tianzhu Foundation and Ghent University. The program includes the following topics: landscape painting, ink art, antiquarianism and seal carving. The program is concluded by a lecture on Song dynasty gardens given by Ms. Salome Foltin (University of Tübingen).  All lectures and workshops will take place at the interfaculty study center VANDENHOVE (Rozier 1, 9000 Ghent). Admission is free but for the workshops registration is required. For further inquiries please contact Mathieu.Torck@UGent.be.



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

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.

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.

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


“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
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)

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.

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

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.

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.




Visiting scholar 2018-2019: Prof. Dr. Lei Hanqing (Sichuan University, PRC)

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.

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.

Long-term visiting scholar 2017-2018: Pu Chengzhong (Shanghai University, PRC)

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.

This visit was made possible due to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation.