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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Asian Studies

Postgraduate Course: Buddhism and the State in Early East Asia (ASST11125)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course looks at the relationship between Buddhism and the state in China, Korea, and Japan from the 6th to the 8th century. Topics especially focus on themes of legitimation, exchange, material culture, and protection. It will address Buddhism's role as a form of "technology" that provided a common link among these countries, and it will also consider Buddhism's transmission via the Silk Road.
Course description Buddhism has played a key part in the interplay of East Asian politics, culture, and overseas relations from the time of its introduction to China circa 1st-2nd century CE. In this course, students will examine Buddhism's transmission out of India and its connection to the rulers of China, Korea, and Japan from the 6th-8th century. Readings will connect to the themes of art, translation, pilgrimage, statecraft, cosmology, technology, and relics. Course content will also address Buddhism's appeal as a form of state protection and legitimation in the courts of Emperor A¿oka, Empress Wu Zhao, Emperor Wendi, Emperor Gaozong, Emperor Sh¿mu, Empress K¿ken/Sh¿toku, King Chinh¿ng, and Queen S¿nd¿k. Students will also study especially influential Buddhist texts during this period, including the Lotus Sutra, Golden Light Sutra, Flower Garland Sutra, and the apocryphal Sutra for Benevolent Kings, all of which played a role in statecraft. In addition to readings, students will also be introduced to online resources that will provide addition context to each week's themes, including documentaries, aerial footage of sites, and online databases (such as the Sh¿s¿in and the International Dunhuang Project).

Students will also work in groups or with partners to present at least one set of readings per semester. Students are encouraged to focus on analysing and summarising major themes as well as put them in communication with previous readings to draw out major points and connections.

It is recommended that students have pre-existing familiarity with Chinese, Japanese, and/or Korean history or an understanding of key Buddhist texts and concepts before taking this course. In cases where there are knowledge gaps, students are expected to use provided reference materials to do additional research.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework

Weekly Discussion Posts: 15%

Readings presentation: 5%

Essay Proposal: 10% (750-1000 words)

Final essay: 70% (3,500-4,000 words)
Feedback Feedback on written assignments is provided through the TurnItIn platform. Students can also arrange in-office discussions of assessments and feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify notable topics, individuals, and terms related to Buddhism in 6th-8th century East Asia.
  2. Explain how Buddhism provided a means for communication, trade, and political exchange as well as how material culture and performing arts contributed to Buddhism's spread and general global awareness in East Asian courts at this time.
  3. Analyse course content in connection with independent research in developing original arguments, thesis statements, and further areas of interest in both written and oral format.
  4. Develop an original essay that clearly addresses essay prompts or questions and that incorporates both primary and secondary source materials.
  5. Select and present key arguments, terms, and pieces of information from readings to their peers.
Reading List
Essential Readings

Balkwill, Stephanie and James Benn, ed. Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia. Leiden: Brill, 2022.

Bingenheimer, Marcus. A Biographical Dictionary of the Japanese Student-Monks of the Seventh and Early Eighth Centuries: Their Travels to China and Their Role in the Transmission of Buddhism. Mu¿nchen: Iudicium, 2001

Bowring, Richard. The Religious Traditions of Japan 500-1600. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005

Buswell, Robert E., ed. Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2022

Chen, Jinhua. Monks and Monarchs, Kinship and Kingship: Tanqian in Sui Buddhism and Politics. Kyoto: Italian School of East Asian Studies, 2002

Forte, Antonino. Mingtang and Buddhist Utopias in the History of the Astronomical Clock: the Tower, Statue and Armillary Sphere Constructed by Empress Wu. Roma: Istituto Italiana per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente; Paris: Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient, 1988.

Forte, Antonino. Political Propaganda and Ideology in China at the End of the Seventh Century: Inquiry into the Nature, Authors and Function of the Dunhuang Document S.6502. Second Edition. Kyoto: Scuola di studi sull'Asia orientale, 2005

Heirman, Ann and Stephan Peter Bumbacher, eds. The Spread of Buddhism. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Orzech, Charles D., Henrik H. Sørensen, and Richard K. Payne, eds. Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia. Leiden: Brill,. 2011.

Orzech, Charles. Politics and Transcendent Wisdom: The Scripture for Humane Kings in the Creation of Chinese Buddhism. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press,.- 1998

Park, J. P., Juhyung Rhi, Burglind Jungmann, and Dana Arnold, eds. A Companion to Korean Art. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons. 2020

Sen, Tansen, ed. Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Intellectual and Cultural Exchange. Volume I. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2014

Richey, Jeffrey L, ed. Daoism in Japan: Chinese Traditions and Their Influence on Japanese Religious Culture. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015

Verschuer, Charlotte von. Across the Perilous Sea: Japanese Trade with China and Korea From the Seventh to Sixteenth Centuries. Translated by Kristen Lee Hunter. Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series, 2006

Wang Zhenping. Ambassadors from the Islands of Immortals: China-Japan Relations in the Han-Tang Period. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005

Wong, Dorothy. Buddhist Pilgrims Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, Ca. 645-770. Singapore: NUS Press, 2018

Recommended Readings

de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed. Sources of Chinese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Vol. 1. Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010

de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed. Sources of Korean Tradition: From Early times through the Sixteenth Century. Vol. 1. Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996

de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Vol. 1. Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001

Buswell, Robert E., ed. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004

Buswell, Robert E., and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014

Friday, Karl, ed. Routledge Handbook of Premodern Japanese History. London : Routledge, 2017

Keown, Damien. Buddhism: a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

Further Readings

Ch'en, Kenneth. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020

Ch'en, Kenneth. Chinese Transformation of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015

Como, Michael. Sho¿toku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008

Como, Michael. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010

Duthie, Torquil. Man¿y¿sh¿ and the Imperial Imagination in Early Japan. Leiden: Brill, 2014

Kim, Sujung. Shinra My¿jin and Buddhist Networks of the East Asian "Mediterranean". Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019

Lowe, Bryan. Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2017

Lurie, David. Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011

McBride, Richard D. Domesticating the Dharma : Buddhist Cults and the Hwaom Synthesis in Silla Korea. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007

McBride, Richard D., ed. State and Society in Middle and Late Silla. Cambridge, MA: Korea Institute, Harvard University, 2010

Ooms, Herman. Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2009

Piggott, Joan. The Emergence of Japanese Kingship. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997

Rothschild, N. Harry. Emperor Wu Zhao and her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015

Schafer, Edward H. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T`ang Exotics. Berkeley, London: University of California Press, 1985

Versmeersch, Sem. The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism During the Kory¿ Dynasty (918-1392). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008.

Weinstein, Stanley. Buddhism under the T'ang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987

Wen, Xin. The King's Road: Diplomacy and the Remaking of the Silk Road. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023

Zürcher, Erik. The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China. Leiden: Brill, 2007
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Frame and develop an advanced-level academic argument

Identify key arguments and themes relevant for deeper personal analysis

Connect major themes, readings, and concepts both internal and external to course content

Identify and use major resources for independent research

In-depth understanding of principal terminology, ideas, concepts, and principles
KeywordsAsian Studies,East Asia,Japan,China,Korea,Religion,History,Tradition,Culture,Buddhism,Religious Art
Course organiserDr Abigail MacBain
Tel: (0131 6)51 1358
Course secretaryMr Iain Harrison
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