All events are free and open to the public

Spring Term 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014, 3:00–5:00 p.m.
New Perspectives in Dunhuang Studies
Heyns Room, Faculty Club

The Dunhuang Grottoes on the ancient silk road, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, are a splendid treasure house of art from Ancient China. For more than 100 years, the discovery, conservation and study of those grottoes have attracted worldwide attention.

3:00 — Opening remarks
Patricia Berger, Professor, History of Art Department, U.C. Berkeley

3:05 — Current Status and Emerging Developments in the Preservation of the Dunhuang Grottoes
Xudong Wang, Deputy Director, Dunhuang Academy

3:40 — New Paleographic Approaches to the Tibetan Manuscripts from Dunhuang
Jacob Dalton, Associate Professor and Khyentse Foundation Distinguished Professor of Tibetan Buddhism, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, U.C. Berkeley

4:00 — Dunhuang and the Silk Road
Yuanlin Zhang, Research Fellow, Dunhuang Academy

4:20 — Sogdians in China: Further Reflections
Albert Dien, Professor Emeritus, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University

4:40 — Discussion
Peter Zhou, Director, C. V. Starr East Asian Library, U.C. Berkeley
Patricia Berger, Professor, History of Art Department, U.C. Berkeley

5:00 — Reception

Event Contact:, 510‑643‑7290

Co-sponsors: Institute of East Asian Studies, Department of History of Art, Library, Center for Buddhist Studies, Center for Chinese Studies

Thursday, April 17, 2014, 5 pm
Early Indian Mahāyāna: Thoughts and Questions
Peter Skilling, École Française d'Extrême-Orient, Bangkok
Conference Room, Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th floor

Early Indian Mahāyāna: Thoughts and Questions

The evolution of early Mahāyāna is a topic that perennially fascinates, perhaps because there are more questions than answers. The recent publication and ongoing study of newly discovered manuscripts from Gandhāra have already radically transformed our picture of early Mahāyāna. We now have physical evidence for the development of Buddhist practice and metaphysics in the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent from about Buddhist Era 400 or the beginning of the Christian Era. The manuscripts include a Prakrit Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) and an unknown sutra from Bajaur (Pakistan), as well as fragments of several other Mahāyāna sutras like the Fortunate Aeon (Bhadrakalpika) and the Meditation on the Buddhas of the Present (Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra). In addition, excavations in India in recent decades have uncovered numerous new Buddhist sites, including major stupa complexes like Deorkothar (Rewa, MP), Bhon (Maharashtra), Phanigiri (AP), and Kanaganahalli (Karnataka). These discoveries completely revise the archaeological map of Indian Buddhism. In short, the old theories and the old textbooks are now very much out of date. With this situation — which I term the "revolution in Buddhist Studies" — in mind, I will discuss some of the new finds and their implications for the history of Buddhist thought.

Peter Skilling is a professor at the French School of Asian Studies (Directeur d’Études, École Française d'Extrême-Orient [EFEO]) in Bangkok, Thailand. He received his doctorate in Religious Sciences from the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris, France). From 1988 to 1996 he was a Research Fellow at The Pali Text Society (Oxford, England) where he also served as a curator from 1996 to 2002. From 2002 to 2006, he was a Research Fellow at the Lumbini International Research Institute (Lumbini, Nepal). He currently is the President of the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (Bangkok, Thailand), the Regional Representative of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, and the Thailand representative to The Pali Text Society.

Friday–Saturday, April 25–26, 2014
Buddhism, Mind, and Cognitive Science
Toll Room, Alumni House, University of California, Berkeley

This conference is made possible by a grant from The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.

This conference is dedicated to the exploration of the methodological underpinnings of the current encounter between Buddhism and cognitive science. Recently, this encounter has been criticized for failing to take account of the historical and cultural complexities of Buddhist thought and practice, failing to reflect the most recent developments in cognitive science, neglecting the hermeneutic issues that complicate attempts to relate traditional Buddhist psychology to contemporary scientific theories, and neglecting traditional Buddhist epistemologies that are incompatible with the "neurophysicalism" that motivates some of the scientific research. Given such critiques, how might one proceed? Is there some way to mitigate the methodological (historical, hermeneutic, philosophical) quandaries that threaten to unravel the Buddhism-cognitive science dialogue? Is there a way to bring these disparate traditions into conversation without sacrificing the intellectual depth and sophistication of each? Or is such an endeavor misguided in principle? Is it merely another in a long history of attempts to legitimize Buddhism by claiming its compatibility with science? Our interest lies not in rehearsing the critique, but instead in exploring how, if at all, the encounter might move forward.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 1: 4:00 – 7:00 pm

Welcome and introduction to the conference:
•  Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley

Plenary talks:
•  Evan Thompson (Philosophy), University of British Columbia
•  Clifford Saron (Neuroscience), University of California, Davis

Open discussion


Saturday, April 26, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 2: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Chair: Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley

•  John Dunne (Buddhist Studies), Emory University Antoine Lutz
•  Lawrence Barsalou (Psychology), Emory University
•  Antoine Lutz (Neuroscience), Neuroscience Research Center, Lyon
•  Rebecca Todd (Psychology), University of British Columbia
•  Laurence Kirmayer (Psychiatry), McGill University
•  Carol Worthman (Anthropology), Emory University


Saturday, April 26, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 3: 2:00 – 6:30 pm

Chair: Evan Thompson (Philosophy), University of British Columbia

•  Christian Coseru (Philosophy), College of Charleston
•  Thomas Metzinger (Philosophy), Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
•  Dan Arnold (Philosophy of Religion), University of Chicago
•  Georges Dreyfus (Buddhist Studies), Williams College
•  Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley
•  John Tresch (History and Sociology of Science), University of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 4 pm
New Discoveries in Sogdian Art and Culture from Central Asia to China
Matteo Compareti, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
Conference Room, Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton Street, 6 floor

Talk followed by a panel discussion.

In the last fifteen years, knowledge about the Sogdians along the so-called "Silk Road" has expanded thanks to archaeological discoveries in Central Asia and China. The discovery of "cemeteries for foreigners" in the outskirts of the ancient Chinese capital Xi'an and other sites of present-day China revealed also some tombs that belonged to Sogdian immigrants who were active during the sixth century. Despite the adoption of Chinese cultural traits, these burials displayed some typical Iranian elements which indicated the Sogdians complex religious and cultural traditions.

Greco-Roman, Chinese, Indian and even Mesopotamian elements can be traced among the Sogdians both in their homeland and in the colonies abroad, not to mention Hunnic and Turkic ones. Monumental mural paintings discovered at the three main Sogdian sites of Varakhsha, Afrasyab and Penjikent still present several interpretative problems that can now be compared to visual narratives on Sino-Sogdian funerary monuments, especially, those ones from Xi'an. Moreover, eighth-century Sogdian paintings display elements found commonly in Islamic book illustrations of the late thirteenth-early fourteenth centuries onwards.

This talk will present some of the most recent discoveries and interpretations in this fascinating field of study, with particular attention to Sogdian secular and religious visual production.

Matteo Compareti completed his M.A. at Venice University "Ca' Foscari" in 1999 and his PhD at Naples University "L'Orientale" in 2005. His main field is Silk Road studies, in particular the relationships between Iranian peoples such as the Persians and the Sogdians and neighboring cultures and civilizations. At present, his investigations focus mainly on the iconography of Zoroastrian divinities in both pre-Islamic Persia and Central Asia. Some of his most recent publications include the following articles and books:

Samarcanda Centro del Mondo. Proposte di lettura del ciclo pittorico di Afrāsyāb, Milano-Udine, 2009 (forthcoming English edition : Samarkand the center of the world, Mazda, 2014).

The Painted Vase of Merv in the Context of Central Asian Pre-Islamic Funerary Tradition, The Silk Road, 9, 2011, pp. 26-41.

The So-Called Senmurv in Iranian Art: A Reconsideration of an Old Theory, in: Loquentes linguis. Linguistic and Oriental Studies in Honour of Fabrizio A. Pennacchietti, eds. P. G. Borbone, A. Mengozzi, M. Tosco, Wiesbaden, 2006, pp. 185-200.