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Holy monks in China and India through Buddhists eyes



This lecture course focuses on clarifying the concepts and exploring some underlying problems regarding “holy monks” in medieval Chinese Buddhism during the 4th-7th centuries, including how the phenomenon is related with its Indian background. The Chinese term shengren 聖人 can be translated into English as a “holy person” in the Medieval Chinese Buddhist context, although it is remarkably different from both sheng(ren) as a “sage” in Confucianism and ārya as a “noble being” in earlier Indian tradition. This course will examine the definition of “holy” monks and their narratives in hagiographical literature such as the Biographies of Eminent Monks as well as Chinese translations of sūtras and commentaries thereon. The lecture will be delivered by consulting translations of original short passages taken from Chinese texts (to be prepared by the instructor) along with brief explanations of each basic point. A careful reading of those passages will reveal that there are two different views or streams on the notion of “holy” in Chinese Buddhism. Students are encouraged to have strong interests in the history and texts of medieval Chinese Buddhism, if not equipped with enough knowledge on individual things.

Assessment method

A final decision on the precise way of testing will be taken when professor Funayama has arrifved in Leiden in early September.