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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.

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.


The timetable is available on the website

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture and discussion

Course Load

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 26 hours

  • Assignment(s): 26 hours

  • Exam(s): 62 hours

Assessment method

  • 36%: Reading the texts, and writing responses

  • 64%: Final paper (2000–2500 words). List of topics will be available on Blackboard. You are free to come up with your own topic, but please consult with the instructor first. Follow this schedule:

o By end of third session: contact the instructor (by e-mail or in office hours) to choose essay topic. (10% of the paper grade)
o By end of fifth session: Send in bibliography; minimum eight items. (10%)
o By end of tenth session: Send in first draft. (60%)
o By end final week of class (by Friday, Dec. 20): Send in final draft. (20%)

This must be your best attempt at a finished essay. You will receive constructive criticism.

Late submissions are not accepted. If you need an extension, contact the instructor in advance. If you miss a deadline for any of the writing stages, you are welcome to try to meet the next one, but you cannot make up for the missed one.

When researching your essay topic, you will want to consult the file titled “Additional Readings” available on Blackboard. This file provides lists of additional sources for each lecture topic. The lists are useful as a point of departure, but they are not sufficient, hence when writing your paper, you will need to locate other sources using bibliographies, the library computer catalog, references supplied in books or articles you are reading, and browsing the library shelves.

The “Additional Readings” file also includes a list of the best guidebooks for writing undergraduate essays in the humanities. You are required to pick one of these guidebooks as the manual that you will rely on when writing your paper, and to communicate your choice to the instructor on top of your paper.

A resit is possible, and consists of a satisfactory rewriting of the paper in line with the instructor’s critique.

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.

Plagiarism is a serious offense. For detailed information about what constitutes plagiarism, what consequences it carries, and how to avoid it, consult the website:


Blackboard will be used for the distribution of the syllabus, of primary and additional reading materials, as well as of final essay topics.

Reading list

The reading list, along with detailed reading instructions, will be placed on the course Blackboard 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