All events are free and open to the public
Spring Term 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 4 pm
Queuing into the Afterlife: The Politics of Branding Buryat Buddhism
Mongolia Initiative/Buddhist Studies
Tatiana Chudakova, Tufts University
180 Doe Library
This paper discusses the inadvertent effects of transforming the marked into the marketable on the mundane strategies of "making a living," both economically and cosmologically, in Buddhist Siberia. Building on anthropological discussions on marketing ethnicity, it tracks attempts to develop a regional brand in Buryatia, a self-governing republic within the Russian Federation that derives its political status from being home to an ethnically Mongol minority. Tracking local efforts to develop "Buryatia’s brand," I am interested in what happens when local ethno-branding projects run up against and must make themselves legible to the state’s narratives and imaginaries of its national and international identity. In the context of present day Russia examined here, branding ethnicity is a complicated political gambit, in part because the state’s self-presentation has been fluctuating between privileging radical plurality on the one hand and, on the other, laying claims to equally radical cultural and ideological homogeneity. By looking at an instance of ethno-branding "at the edges" — in a region that has historically been situated at the periphery of several, competing spheres of political influence, the paper interrogates how the regimes of value that underpin ethno-branding work alongside a self-conscious politics of marginality.
Event Contact: email@example.com, 510‑642‑2809
Thursday, March 23, 2017, 5 pm
Buddhist Studies/Art History Lecture
Female Bodily Sacrifice and the Absence of Men: Filial Figuration in Song, Jin, and Liao Tombs
Winston Kyan, University of Utah
308A Doe Memorial Library
Among the pantheon of filial offspring in China, a striking if overlooked figure is the wife of Wang Wuzi, or Wang Wuzi Qi 王武子妻, who offers her flesh to cure her sick mother-in-law through an act of filial thigh cutting, or gegu 割股. While the paradox of gegu as being both an act of filial caring towards one’s parents and an act of unfilial neglect towards the parental gift of the body has attracted the attention of scholars both medieval and modern, a close analysis of its figural representation remains to be done. Images of Wang Wuzi Qi are particularly intriguing since they appear across a variety of funerary media from Song, Jin, and Liao period tombs, ranging across painted murals, engraved stone slabs, painted carved bricks, carved low relief tiles, and three-dimensional tableaux of clay figurines. However, these diverse images are limited by established pictorial conventions, geographic locations in southern Shanxi and northern Henan provinces, and chronological parameters from the late eleventh- to early thirteenth-centuries. Moreover, the pictorial standardization of a controversial filial sacrifice within the hallowed filial space of the tomb raises key issues regarding the construction of a "new" filial paragon, the relationship between Buddhist caves and ancestral tombs, as well as the connection between filial efficacy as a popular belief and an elite value.
Winston Kyan was born in Rangoon, Burma. He holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and an MA and PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he is currently Assistant Professor of Art History. His current and primary research project is rethinking the intersection of filial piety and Buddhist art in medieval China through representations of the body, sacrifice, and health as a sensorium of sight, smells, sounds, tastes, touch, and other modes of perception beyond the usual five. He is wrapping up a manuscript on this topic while continuing side interests in the relationship between contemporary Asian art and Buddhism as well as Asian American visual culture as sites of religious identity. His next research project will explore the visual and material culture of the trade and military routes between Yunnan, China and Myanmar/Burma. His publications have appeared in The Art Bulletin, Amerasia Journal, and Art Journal Open, in addition to other conference volumes and digital resources.
Saturday-Monday, March 25-27, 2017
Workshop on Tannishō Commentarial Materials
Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704
Sponsors: Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Buddhist Studies, Otani University, Ryukoku University
The Centers for Japanese Studies and Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, together with Ōtani University and Ryūkoku University in Kyoto announce a workshop under the supervision of Mark Blum that will focus on critically examining premodern and modern hermeneutics of the Tannishō, a core text of the Shin sect of Buddhism, and arguably the most well-read religious text in postwar Japan. Beginning in 2017, the workshop will continue for five years, meeting twice a year for 3 to 4 days each time, in late March in Berkeley and early August in Kyoto, where it will be hosted alternately by Ōtani and Ryūkoku universities. Organized around close readings of the most influential materials produced in early modern, modern, and postmodern Japan, the workshop aims at producing a critical, annotated translation detailing the salient ways in which this text has been both inspirational and controversial, as well as a series of essays analyzing a wide spectrum of voices in Japanese scholarship and preaching that have spoken on this work. For the early modern or Edo period, the commentaries by Enchi (1662), Jinrei (1801-1808), and Ryōshō (1841) will be examined. For the modern period, works by Andō Shūichi (1909), Chikazumi Jōkan (1930), and Soga Ryōjin (1947) will be the major concern. And for the postwar/postmodern period, due to the sheer volume of publications (over 300 titles), reading choices will be selected at a later date in consultation with participants.
Event Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 510‑642‑3415
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 5 pm
Buddhist Studies/Art History Lecture
Through the Eyes of Another: Visions of Arhats in Song-Dynasty China
Phillip E. Bloom, Indiana University Bloomington
308A Doe Memorial Library
Crafted between 1178 and 1188 for ritual use in a small temple near Ningbo, the one hundred hanging scrolls of the Five Hundred Arhats (Daitokuji, Kyoto, Japan) possess a striking peculiarity: more often than not, the set’s eponymous semi-divine monks are simply shown gazing. They gaze at natural wonders, they gaze at supernatural feats performed by their peers, they gaze at episodes from the mytho-history of Buddhism, and most importantly, they gaze even at paintings. How are we to understand these scrolls’ insistence on acts of viewing, and how might Song worshippers have responded? Through their practice of gazing, do these arhats merely model for us how we ought to look, or are other motivations at work? To make sense of the multiple forms of spectatorial engagement facilitated by these scrolls, this presentation will bring them into dialogue with contemporaneous poems that describe imaginative acts of entering painted worlds and with liturgies that prescribe the performative inhabitation of other subject positions. Drawing on such texts, I shall argue that the Five Hundred Arhats and other works of Song Buddhist art seek to create possibilities for intersubjective experience—for viewing the world through the eyes of an awakened other.
Phillip E. Bloom is Assistant Professor of East Asian Art History in the Department of Art History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He specializes in the history of Song-dynasty Buddhist art and ritual. His work has recently appeared in The Art Bulletin and Bukkyō geijutsu, and he is currently completing a book manuscript, tentatively titled "Nebulous Intersections: Ritual and Representation in Chinese Buddhist Art, ca. 1178."
Thursday, April 20, 2017, 5 pm
The Logic of Zen Kōans
T. Griffith Foulk, Sarah Lawrence College
180 Doe Memorial Library
The idea that kōans are "logically insoluble riddles" (Arthur Koestler) that are designed to "break down all reasoning" (Erik Zürcher) and thereby induce satori is commonplace, both in the academic literature that treats Zen Buddhism and in the imagination of many Western Zen practitioners. The so-called "Zen of contemplating sayings" (kanna zen 看話禪) that evolved in Japan and Korea on the basis of the teachings of Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163) is the main source of that idea, for proponents of the practice speak of cutting off all intellectual interpretation and concentrating the mind in a "great ball of doubt" as the prerequisite for a sudden awakening. Even in that branch of the Chan / Zen / Sŏn tradition, however, the test of awakening is the ability to comment appropriately on kōans, showing that one gets the point and understands the meaning of each particular "old case." Foulk argues that kōan literature in general is grounded in the Mahāyāna doctrines of "emptiness" and "two truths," and that the sayings of individual Zen masters found therein do, in fact, embody a certain logic. Nonsensical statements that have no reasonable connection to the topic under discussion are no more tolerated in the Zen tradition than in any other area of human discourse.
T. Griffith Foulk is Professor of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College and Co-editor-in-chief of the Sōtō Zen Text Project.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 5 pm
Buddhist Sectarianism in Burma’s Last Kingdom
Alexandra Kaloyanides, Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, Stanford University
180 Doe Memorial Library
The collapse of Burma’s final kingdom was devastating for the Buddhist organizations that depended on its royal sponsorship. The nineteenth-century encroachment of the British Raj crippled both the Konbaung Dynasty and its once-powerful monastic establishment, but it also created opportunities for opposition parties. One adversarial Buddhist sect, the Paramats, was particularly active between the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 and the total colonization of the country in 1886. This reformist sect has been something of a mystery in the study of Burmese Buddhism because of minimal references to them in official Burmese materials. This paper examines a previously unstudied collection of documents dating from 1830–1880 found in an American missionary archive to argue that the Paramats were not a kind of Mahayanist group dedicated to propounding emptiness teachings, as scholars have argued, but rather, they were a Burmese Buddhist organization concerned with protesting laxity within mainstream monasteries and excess at royally-sponsored shrines. These archival documents suggest that scholars should attend to politics, as well as philosophy, to understand this particular sectarian development and similar religious reform movements at the end of the Konbaung Dynasty.
Alexandra Kaloyanides is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University. She researches Burmese religions and American religious history. Her book manuscript, "Objects of Conversion, Relics of Resistance," examines the religious contestations, conversions, and transformations during the nineteenth-century American Baptist mission to Burma.