The Third International Conference on the Wutai Cult

The Third International Conference on the Wutai Cult

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Dates: July 12-15, 2017

Mount Clear and Cool and the Buddhāvatasaka Sūtra:

Multidisciplinary, Inter-cultural, and Interreligious Studies of the Mañjuśrī Cult, Mount Wutai, and the Buddhāvatasaka Sūtra

Primary Sponsor:    The Wutai International Institute of Buddhism and East Asian Cultures
Secondary Sponsors:     King’s College, University of London, UBC Buddhist Studies Forum
Host:                   Great Sage Monastery of Bamboo Grove
Venue:              Great Sage Monastery of Bamboo Grove, Mount Wutai
Dates:                  July 12-14, 2017 (conference), July 15 (tour), 2017

The chapters on Where Bodhisattvas Dwell 菩薩住處品 in both the sixty- and eighty-roll Chinese translations of the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra (Huayan jing 華嚴經, T. nos. 278-279) divulge that the Mahāyāna bodhisattva of wisdom, Mañjuśrī, resides on a mountain in the northeast called Mount Clear and Cool. Reading Mount Wutai, located in central China, as Mount Clear and Cool seems, therefore, to be inextricably tied to this scripture, narratives of its likely composition in Khotanese Sanskrit and subsequent translation into Chinese, Tibetan, and eventually Tangut and Mongolian, reception by political leaders, religious specialists, and devotees from Central and East Asia, and depiction at sacred spaces—including cave 61 of the Mogao caves near Dunhuang—across the region.

This conference explores trans-cultural, multi-ethnic, and cross-regional contexts and connections between the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra, Mount Wutai/Clear and Cool, and veneration of Mañjuśrī that contributed to the establishment and successive transformations of the cult centered on Mount Wutai—or reduplications elsewhere.

Topics for this conference include, but are not limited to:

  • Wutaishan’s/Qingliangshan’s status as a site linked to the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra in Asia;
  • Studies of Buddhist literature, rituals, performances, and sacred spaces with links to the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra or related texts (printed texts and manuscripts);
  • Various patterns of interactions between different religious traditions and the narratives of Wutaishan/Qingliangshan;
  • Presence of and interactions between different Buddhist traditions (Chan, Tiantai, Pure-land, Vinaya, Esotericism, Tibetan Buddhism, etc) with the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra and Wutaishan/Qingliangshan;
  • Political and military uses of Wutaishan/Qingliangshan and scriptures or manuscripts by competing powers in East Asia (the international rivalry revolving around Wutaishan/Qingliangshan, intensified by its location as a frontier territory for several major forces in Central and East Asia);
  • Imagination and perceptions of Wutaishan/Qingliangshan and related scriptures and manuscripts in East Asian countries and regions beyond China;
  • Wutaishan/Qingliangshan as the model after which sacred spaces (including sacred mountains, temples, and shrines) mentioned in scriptures or religious literature were “cloned” in the rest of Asia (Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Central Asia);
  • Wutaishan/Qingliangshan and/or the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra as the source of inspiration for different forms of literature and arts in Asia;
  • Wutaishan/Qingliangshan, the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra, or related scriptures or religious literature as a source of revelations for religious traditions, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.

The organizing committee welcomes paper proposals related to any aspect(s) of the multidisciplinary, inter-cultural, and interreligious connections between Mount Wutai/Clear and Cool and the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra and the cult centered on Mañjuśrī or the Buddhāvatasaka-sūtra. Interested scholars are invited to email  proposals and cvs to vicky.baker@ubc.ca by March 1, 2017. All conference-related costs, including, local transportation, meals and accommodation during the conference period, will be covered by the conference organizers, who—depending on availability of funding—may also provide a modest travel subsidy to selected panelists who are in need of funding. This conference is planned as a continuation of two conferences on the Wutai cult that were held last two summers at Mount Wutai:

Our goal is to bring 15-18 international scholars to the conference, who will be joined by an equal number of China-based scholars working on the Buddhāvatasaka cult. Similar to the last two Wutai conferences, the conference this year will generate two conference proceedings: one in English and the other in Chinese. The English volume will collect all the papers in English, plus the English translations of several papers written in non-English languages; the Chinese volume, to be published in China, will include the Chinese versions for all non-Chinese papers in addition to those papers contributed by our colleagues based in China. Only scholars who are confident in finishing their draft papers by the middle of July and publishable papers by the end of 2017 are encouraged to apply.

This conference is planned as part of our annual Intensive Program of Lectures Series, Conference/Forum, and Fieldwork on Buddhism and East Asian Cultures. Interested graduate student and post-doctoral fellows are welcomed to apply for the whole program (details can be found here).  The intensive program itself is a component of an international and interdisciplinary program on Buddhism and East Asian religions (From the Ground Up) sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (www.frogbear.org).