Sheng Yen Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Buddhism

Mengxiao Wang (2019-2021)

Mengxiao Wang was the 2019-2021 Sheng Yen Postdoctoral Fellow of Chinese Buddhism. Her research focuses on religion and literature in late imperial China, with a special interest in the intersections between ritual and theatrical performance, religious practice and literary form, elite culture and folk traditions. Born and raised in China, she received her B.A. (2009) and M.A. (2012) from Beijing Normal University, and her Ph.D. (2019) from Yale University. Her Ph.D. dissertation explores the interactions and negotiations between theater and Buddhism in 16th-18th-century China. At Berkeley, Mengxiao is working on her book project based on the dissertation and several articles. She is also teaching courses on Buddhism and Chinese literature (spring 2020) and Readings in Chinese Buddhist texts (spring 2021). She is a big fan of Kunqu Opera.

Cody Bahir (2017-2019)

Cody Bahir was the 2017-2019 Sheng Yen Postdoctoral Scholar of Chinese Buddhism. His research focuses on the magical and supernatural aspects of modern Chinese religiosity. He was awarded his PhD in Asian Studies from Leiden University in 2017. He additionally holds an MA in Philosophy and Religion focused on Chinese Buddhism from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and another in Jewish Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). His MA thesis was on the medieval Kabbalistic understanding of the ‘evil eye.’ His BA in Jewish Studies is from American Jewish University (AJU). From 2011-2017, Cody lived in Southern Taiwan (Taichung, Kaohsiung, Tainan and Pingtung), conducting onsite fieldwork at various Buddhist and Daoist communities. Cody has taught at Fooyin University of Science and Technology in Kaohsiung, Skyline College in San Bruno, California, and HUC-JIR as well as AJU in Los Angeles. 

Tzu-lung Chiu (2016-2017)

Tzu-Lung Chiu was the Sheng Yen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Buddhism, 2016-2017. Her research focuses on Indian Vinaya rules, contemporary Chinese Buddhism, gender, the Chinese diaspora, and Buddhist rituals and practices.Having completed her Ph.D. studies at Ghent University, Belgium, in 2016. Her thesis explored how original Indian vinaya monastic rules are applied in the modern bhikkhunī sangha, and to explore how Chinese nunneries inherit traditional monastic rules to meet contemporary needs and achieve future goals. From 2017-2021, she has worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany. She is currently researching monastic networks that link Mahāyāna and Theravāda Buddhism in East and Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Myanmar. 

Pei-Ying Lin (2015-2017)

Pei-Ying Lin was the Sheng Yen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Buddhism, 2015-2017. Her research interests are Chan Buddhism, ordination rituals, Bodhisattva precepts, and Buddhist discourse on cultural identity. She studied at National Taiwan University (BA in Political Science, 2002), Cambridge University (MPhil in Oriental Studies, 2006), and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (PhD in the Study of Religion, 2012). Her thesis brought together a wide range of documents from ninth-century China, Japan and Korea, and cross-culturally examined the relationship between patriarchal lineages versus textual transmission at the early stage of the history of Chan Buddhism. Before coming to Berkeley, she was a Research Fellow at Oxford University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University. At UC Berkeley, she worked on a project involving a group of eighth-century precept manuals, analyzing the doctrinal and historical connections between Chan Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, with a focus on the commonality of their key components of precepts and meditation. She is now based at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan.

Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies

Jed Forman (2021-2022)

Jed Forman received his undergrad in philosophy from Tufts University with a special certificate for additional studies in Ethics, Law, and Society. There he was awarded a grant to work with the R.F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation to develop ethical investment guidelines for the Norweigan Petroleum Fund. He also received the Dance Studies Award given to one graduating senior from the dance department. After college, he had a successful seven-year career as a computer programmer and street dancer, performing and teaching in New York, LA, and internationally. Jed received his M.S. with distinction in Kinesiology and Dance from California State University Northridge. He thereafter returned to his interest in Buddhist philosophy, learning Tibetan and Sanskrit. Beginning his religious studies doctoral program at University of California Santa Barbara, Jed was twice awarded the Professor R. Ninian Smart Memorial Award: Excellence in Philosophy of Religion by the department. After living in India for some fifteen months on both Fulbright and American Institute for Indian Studies grants for his reaseach, Jed was able to hone his fluency in spoken Tibetan and Hindi. He has several publications, including articles in Philosophy East and West,Critical Research on Religion, and Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines. He is a co-author of a monograph with the Yakherds concerning the epistemology of Taktsang Lotsāwa to be published by Oxford. He currently works also as a translator for 84000: Translating the Words of theBuddha and continues his research on Buddhist epistemology, the cognitive science approach to religion, and their intersections with Western phenomenology.

Ian MacCormack (2019-2021)

Ian MacCormack was the 2019-2021 Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies. He specializes in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the relationship between religion and the Tibetan State.

Katarina Turpeinen (2017-2019)

Katarina Turpeinen was a Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies. She specializes in Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism, particularly the Tibetan Great Perfection tradition. Her dissertation analyzes and contextualizes an influential 14th-century anthology, The Unimpeded Realization of Samantabhadra, revealed by Rindzin Gödem. During a four and half year period of doctoral research in India and Nepal, Katarina translated the anthology and studied the context of the Great Perfection while living in Tibetan monasteries. Katarina received her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia, and has taught there as an Adjunct Professor and at Vanderbilt University as a Visiting Assistant Professor. Her other interests include Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, narratives and ritual.

Qian Lin (2015-2017)

Qian Lin studied Buddhist philosophy, history, and languages at the University of Bristol, and the University of Washington. He also worked as a research associate in the Early Buddhist Manuscript Project (EBMP) at the University of Washington. He received his PhD in 2015 from the University of Washington with a thesis on the section of mind in the Chengshi Lun (成實論 *Tattvasiddhi), which is also an in-depth study on the formation and development of the Abhidharma concepts of “mental factor” (caitta or caitasika) and “association” (saṃprayoga), which are the key concepts in the Abhidharma models of the structure of mind. His main research interest is the textual and philological study of early Buddhist texts, doctrines, and history, as well as Buddhist Abhidharma philosophical systems. 

Ryan Overbey (2013-2015)

Ryan Overbey studies the intellectual and ritual history of Buddhism, with particular focus on early medieval Buddhist spells and ritual manuals. He studied at Brown University (AB in Classics & Sanskrit and Religious Studies, 2001) and at Harvard University (PhD in the Study of Religion, 2010). He worked as an academic researcher for Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose’s project on Stone Sūtras at the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, and also served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. His dissertation explored the ideological and ritual construction of the “preacher of the dharma” (dharmabhāṇaka) in the Great Lamp of the Dharma Dhāraṇī Scripture, a massive text extant only in a single sixth-century Chinese translation. In addition to illuminating many details of Buddhist rhetoric and homiletics, the Great Lamp shows how seemingly arcane Buddhist theories of ritual and spellcraft could be brought down to earth and made relevant for the practical concerns of building Buddhist preachers and their communities. During his time at Berkeley, Ryan worked on a monographic study of Buddhist preachers in the early medieval period, drawing on more data about Buddhist pedagogy from Chinese imperial histories and Buddhist hagiography, as well as from documents about preachers found in the Dunhuang archives. Ryan also pursued research on Buddhist spells and ritual manuals of the early centuries CE, such as the Great Peahen Queen of Spells and the Consecration Sūtra. He is now Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Skidmore College.

Jann Ronis (2011-2013)

Jann Ronis studied religion, Tibetan studies, Sinology, and the Tibetan and Chinese languages at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2009 for a dissertation about developments in the monasteries of eastern Tibet, along the border between Tibet and China, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His dissertation focused on innovations in scholastics, liturgical practices, and administration spearheaded by the lamas of Katok Monastery and their widespread adoption in the region. The resulting network of monasteries represented the only significant alternative in Tibet to the model of monasticism prevalent in central Tibet and was the site of tremendous literary and artistic production. His research interests include the social histories of visionary cults, scholastic traditions, monastic reform movements, and sectarian conflicts; the philosophical and contemplative traditions of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism; and Sino-Tibetan cultural relations. During his year at Berkeley Jann researched the twelfth and thirteenth-century formation of an important ritual tradition in Tibetan Buddhism,­ the Kagye (bka' brgyad), or Eight Dispensations in an effort to better understand the domestication of Buddhism in Tibet. The Kagye is a compendium of eight heterogeneous deity cults including deities of Indic and Tibetan origins, and supramundane and mundane statuses ­ and Jann is exploring the innovations in narrative and ritual made by the Tibetan creators of this uniquely Tibetan pantheon.

Stefan Baums (2010-2011)

Stefan Baums was a Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley and a Group in Buddhist Studies Visiting Professor during the 2011-12 academic year. He studied Indology, Tibetology and Linguistics at the Georg‐August‐Universität Göttingen; Sanskrit, Nepali and Buddhist Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and South Asian and Buddhist Studies at the University of Washington. He received his PhD from the University of Washington in 2009 for his study of a first‐century Gāndhārī birch‐bark manuscript containing a commentary on a selection of early Buddhist verses. His research interests include Buddhist philology and epigraphy, the beginnings of written Buddhist literature, the interaction of written and oral modes of text transmission, the development of Buddhist hermeneutics, and the description of Gāndhārī language and literature. He is the editor (with Andrew Glass) of the Dictionary of Gāndhārī. He is now based at the University of Munich.


Jack Meng-Tat Chia - SNUS-Overseas Postdoctoral Fellow 2017-2019

Jack Meng-Tat Chia was a National University of Singapore-Overseas Postdoctoral Fellow. He is a historian of religions who studies Buddhism and Chinese popular religion in maritime Southeast Asia, with a focus on the transregional circulation of people, ideas and resources. Born and raised in Singapore, he received his BA (Hons) and MA from the National University of Singapore, his second MA from Harvard University, where he was a Harvard-Yenching Scholar, and his PhD from Cornell University. He is currently working on his book manuscript tentatively titled “Diaspora’s Dharma: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea.” This book seeks to contribute to our understanding of the history of Buddhism in inter-Asian contexts and the intersections between national and Buddhist institutional projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Chia is the co-editor of Living with Myths in Singapore (2017) and has published articles in journals such as Asian Ethnology, China Quarterly, Dongnanya yanjiu, Journal of Chinese Religions, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, Material Religion, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, and SOJOURN. His next project is entitled “Beyond the Borobudur: Buddhism in Postcolonial Indonesia.” It explores the history and development of Buddhism in the world’s largest Muslim country since 1945

Oren Hanner - Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow 2018-2019

Oren Hanner was the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Buddhist Studies for 2018 and 2019. Starting from September 2021, he is serving as Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy at NYU, Abu Dhabi, where he teaches courses on Buddhist, South-Asian, as well as Western philosophy. Oren’s main areas of research are Buddhist and Cross-Cultural Philosophy, with a special interest in topics related to Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, and Social Theory. 

Erez Joskovich - Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism 2016-2018

Erez Joskovich was the Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism (2016-18). He specializes in the intellectual and religious history of Chan/Zen Buddhism, with a particular focus on the development of Japanese Zen since the 18th century to the present. His doctoral dissertation is a detailed study of the development of lay Zen in modern Japan. While working on his dissertation he was awarded fellowships from the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Ministry of Education. The fellowships enabled him to work as a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo (2008-12). He received his PhD (2014) from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Tel-Aviv University (in collaboration with the University of Tokyo). Other research interests include Buddhist ethnography, ritual, and performance studies. He is now based at Tel Aviv University.

Michaela Mross - Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism 2014-2016

Michaela Mross was the Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism, 2014-16. Her research interests are Zen Buddhism, Buddhist rituals, sacred music, and manuscript and print culture in premodern Japan. She completed her PhD in Japanese Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich in 2014 with a thesis on kōshiki (Buddhist ceremonials) in the Sōtō school after having conducted research at the Komazawa University and the Research Institute for Japanese Music Historiography of the Ueno Gakuen University from 2007-2013. Before coming to Berkeley, she was a research associate (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) at the Georg-August-University Goettingen. At UC Berkeley, she worked on a book manuscript about the development of kōshiki in the Sōtō school analyzing ritual changes, the relation of rituals to their institutional context as well as the role of music in Buddhist ceremonials. She also resesearched the transmission and vocalization of one of the most influential Buddhist ceremonials, the Shiza kōshiki composed by the Kegon-Shingon monk Myōe, for a special issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies on kōshiki. She is now Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.

Xi He - Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow 2014-2016

Xi He was the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014-16. Her research interests include Buddhist narratives; the translation and transmission of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese; and women and gender in Buddhism traditions. She received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation focused on the early Sanskrit Buddhist text, the Lalitavistara, exploring how Buddhist values and ideals are textualized in Buddhist narratives and the close relationship between Sanskrit literary culture and Buddhist emotions. At Berkeley, Xi researched early Sanskrit literary tradition and the aesthetics, emotions, and communities of the mahāvaipulya literature.

Jessica Starling - Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism 2012-2013

Jessica Starling was the Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism for 2012-13. She completed her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2012, after conducting research as a visiting scholar at Otani University in Kyoto from 2009-2011. Her dissertation concerned the history and contemporary experiences of temple wives, known as bomori, in the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land School of Buddhism in Japan. Her articles include a study of prescriptive accounts of temple wives from the Meiji through the prewar period, and an in-depth study of sermons for temple wives from the Edo period. Jessica is interested in broader themes of women and gender in Pure Land Buddhism as well as the activities of Buddhist laywomen's associations, especially in the modern and early modern periods. She is now Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis & Clark College.

Stefan Larsson - Swedish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow 2010-2012

Stefan Larsson received his Ph.D. in History of Religions from Stockholm University in 2009. His doctoral dissertation is a detailed study of the life stories of the “mad” Tibetan yogin Tsangnyon Heruka (1452-1507). While working on his dissertation he was awarded a fellowship from the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). The fellowship enabled him to spend a semester as a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia. His research focuses upon the non-monastic and practice-oriented forms of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, he is interested in Buddhist biographies and songs. As a postdoctoral fellow he researched texts and aspects of Tsangnyon’s life including Tsangnyon’s songs, the form of Buddhism he practiced, and the network of disciples and patrons around him. He is now based at Stockholm University.

Natasha Heller - Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow 2006-2008

Natasha Heller was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for 2006-08. She specializes in the intellectual and religious history of China, with a particular focus on the intersection of Buddhism and literati culture. She received her PhD (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) from Harvard University, with a dissertation on the Chan monk Zhongfeng Mingben (1263-1323) and his literati followers. She is currently Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

Benjamin Bogin - Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow 2005-2007

Benjamin Bogin was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for 2005-07. He received his BA (Intercultural Studies) from Simon's Rock College of Bard and his MA and PhD (Buddhist Studies) from the University of Michigan. His primary interests are Tibetan Buddhist literature and history and his doctoral dissertation consists of a critical edition, translation, and study of the autobiography of the seventeenth-century Tibetan lama, Yolmo Tenzin Norbu. He is currently Associate Professor of Asian Studies at Skidmore College.