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Chinese Buddhism


Admission requirements

There are no restrictions on admission to this course.


This course is a survey of the two-thousand-year history of Buddhism in China. Buddhism began in India some centuries before the Common Era, at a time when India and China were the two dominant, sophisticated —though mutually isolated— literate cultures of Asia. The two cultures eventually met, on Chinese territory, around the first century CE, setting off a dramatic process of innovation in philosophy, literature, ritual, material culture, and social organization. This process—“Chinese Buddhism”—continued independently even after the religion largely vanished from its Indian homeland in the twelfth century. From China, it went on to profoundly impact the entire Sinitic sphere (Korea, Japan, Vietnam), and has recently spread to the West. Although in the early twentieth century, especially during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the tradition almost died out, it is currently undergoing a spectacular revival, especially in Taiwan, where powerful institutions work to reinvent it for the global digital age. Teaching materials: readings distributed on Brightspace.

Course objectives

1) To equip you with a foundation in the history of Chinese Buddhism as part of the history of China, Asia, and the world;
2) To give you a sense of the methods used for its study: philology, social history, literary studies, study of material and popular culture, genealogical and postcolonial criticism;
3) To develop your skills in critical reading;
4) To foster your ability to formulate and defend an argument, in speech and in writing.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture and discussion

Assessment method


Mid-term Examination. The mid-term examination will consist of a short essay. You will receive several questions in advance, and prepare them at home. At the beginning of the exam I will pick one question for you to answer in your essay. This is worth 30%. Final Examination. The format is the same as the mid-term, but with multiple questions. Participation only possible if you took the mid-term. The final exam is worth 50% of your grade. Reading Response. Prior to each session you will be required to read the assigned readings and upload to Brightspace a reading response of roughly 300 words. You will receive feedback. This is worth (20%) of your grade. Given the discussion component, attendance is mandatory. Each absence beyond two will lead to a 5% deduction in the final grade, unless justified by doctor’s note or by family emergency.


Mid-term exam: 30%. Final exam: 50%. Reading responses: 20%.


A resit will be possible of the final exam only. Details to be announced in class.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The reading list, along with detailed reading instructions, will be placed on the course Brightspace site.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Rafal Felbur