We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Jinhua Chen has been awarded a UBC Killam Research Prize. Established in 1986, the UBC Killam Research Prizes are awarded annually to top campus researchers in recognition of outstanding research and scholarly contributions.
Dr. Chen’s contributions developed primarily from a persistent interest in trans-national narratives in the history and contemporary practice of Buddhism across East Asia. Other themes that have sustained his attention include the exploration of Buddhist transmission narratives across Asia, church-state relationships, Buddhist monasticism, Buddhist hagiographical and biographical literature, Buddhist sacred sites, relic veneration, technological innovations within the Buddhist tradition, translations of Buddhist texts into Chinese, and manuscript cultures. Dr. Chen remains particularly interested in extra-canonical texts and epigraphical sources pertaining to the history of medieval China. Even though much of his work has pertained to China and Chinese monastics such as the fascinating case of Fazang (643-712), Dr. Chen has also produced a large body of work about Buddhism in Japan and Korea.
It has been Dr. Chen’s goal to promote greater use of extra-canonical, epigraphical, and manuscript sources alongside the study of artefacts and within contexts typically the purview of disciplines such as Art History or Archaeology that guides the SSHRC collaborative “From the Ground UP: Buddhism and East Asian Religions” project. He seeks to make it far easier for a wide range of researchers and students to access new evidence about Buddhism and religions in East Asia that has been unearthed, but not necessarily shared or disseminated widely. A perhaps more significant goal has been to create a global network of institutions and scholars to allow us—scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences—to access, record, and interpret material in ways that would otherwise be impossible.
Disseminating these new finds and approaches requires new venues for collaboration appropriate for the twenty-first century. The Summer and Winter (and now Fall) Programs are one example of how Dr. Chen has contributed to leading the fields of Buddhist studies and Asian studies. These programs typically engage more than a hundred graduate students annually with three or four top researchers for a workshop, followed by a conference with thirty or more international scholars at a sacred site (e.g., Wutaishan) or a primary research institution in China. A tangible goal in developing these programs has been to initiate opportunities for discussing research simply not possible at conventional academic conferences.
Dr. Chen is an exceptional researcher at UBC, who continues to push himself to address new research topics. We congratulate him, and are grateful for his leadership of this project.