Cross-Regional and Cross-Cultural Interaction and Integration between Buddhism and Other Asian Religions

Cross-Regional and Cross-Cultural Interaction and Integration between Buddhism and Other Asian Religions

Panya yongsŏn chŏbin to 龍船接引圖 (Prajna Dragon Boat painting), Tongdosa monastery 通度寺, South Korea. FROGBEAR Cluster 2.2, 2018.

 

Call for Proposals

Cross-Regional and Cross-Cultural Interaction and Integration between Buddhism and Other Asian Religions

佛教與亞洲宗教跨地域與跨文化的互鑒與共融

August 16–19, 2024

University of Zhejiang, Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang, China

 

This conference is hosted by the Center for Buddhist Studies at Zhejiang University, in collaboration with the Glorisun Global Network of Buddhist Studies, with administration support from the FROGBEAR project at the University of British Columbia. It is scheduled to take place on August 17 and 18, 2024. Participants are expected to arrive on August 16, and depart on the evening of August 18 or on August 19. We extend a cordial invitation to scholars across disciplines to contribute to the conference.

The emergence and spread of Buddhism across Asia mark a pivotal moment in the annals of human civilization. It represents not only the cross-regional and transnational transmission and adoption of religious beliefs, often accompanied by the collision and fusion of political ideologies, but also initiates extensive and profound innovations in a variety of knowledge domains and perspectives. This encompasses enhancements in geographical understanding, cosmology, concepts of life and rebirth, language systems, artistic forms, cultural customs, the transformation of urban spaces, and the evolution of the religious landscape as Buddhism interacted with indigenous religions. These significant impacts arise from prolonged and complex interactions between sophisticated knowledge systems and belief structures, with Buddhism serving as a key catalyst.

A particular case in point is the evolution of urban spaces. Prior to the advent of Buddhism, Chinese cities were predominantly bifurcated into ‘official’ and ‘civilian’ zones, with state ritual spaces off-limits to the general populace. Buddhism’s arrival disrupted this dichotomy, introducing spaces that transcended the official-civilian divide and served as quasi-public domains accessible to all. The advent of Buddhism also led to the emergence of sacred spaces coexisting with secular ones, thereby introducing a new dimension to urban life. In the Luoyang Qielan ji 洛陽伽藍記 [Buddhist Monasteries in Luoyang], we can vividly discern the urban vitality brought about by these changes. It demonstrates how religions originating from the Indo-European cultural milieu can effect substantial changes in a foreign society through cultural interactions.

Since the medieval period, the transnational transmission of religions has become a significant vehicle and intrinsic form for intercontinental and international cultural dissemination and integration, with Buddhism being one of its prime examples. Buddhism, originating in the Ganges basin and driven by the spirit of the Bodhisattva, traversed deserts and vast seas to spread across Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, where it continues to be a core element of faith across many regions. During the Han and Tang Dynasties in China, Buddhism facilitated a form of ‘globalization’ in civilizations, profoundly reshaping the East Asian cultural landscape. The civilizational interactions between China and regions like South Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia during these eras were predominantly mediated through Buddhism.

Monks such as Faxian 法顯 (337–422), Xuanzang 玄奘 (602–664), and Narendrayaśas (fl. late. 6th c), journeying along the Silk Road, were instrumental in fostering exchanges between China and other civilizations. As a growing body of Buddhist knowledge was brought to and established in China, the country gradually became a new center of the Buddhist world. This eastward expansion of Buddhism also significantly reached the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. Figures like Kūkai 空海 (774–835) and Jianzhen 鑒真 (688–763) epitomize the extensive history of intercultural dialogue between China and its eastern neighbors. They laid the groundwork for more than a millennium of Buddhist development in these regions.

Additionally, Buddhism in South Asia and Southeast Asia sustained a robust maritime connection with China over a prolonged period. Simultaneously, the emergence and expansion of Tibetan Buddhism during the late Tang dynasty profoundly influenced the historical evolution of Inner Asia. Together, these developments wove a rich tapestry of Asian civilizational history, with Buddhism serving as the connecting thread.

In a similar vein, other belief systems such as Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorian Christianity have also significantly contributed to the rich tapestry of cross-border cultural transmission, each playing a role in this expansive intercultural dialogue.

To uncover the role and importance of Buddhism and other religions in the cultural interplay among Asian civilizations, and to enhance our comprehension of the dynamics and rationale of these inter-civilizational exchanges, as well as to deepen our understanding of the development of various Asian civilizations, especially that of Chinese civilization, this conference will address a range of topics. These include, but are not limited to, the following areas.

  • Buddhism and the Silk Road
  • Buddhism and the Maritime Silk Road
  • The Relationship between Gandhara and Chinese Civilization
  • The History of Buddhist Exchanges among East Asian Countries: China, Japan, and Korea
  • Religions and the Exchange among Asian Civilizations
  • Interregional and Cross-Cultural Interactions among Asian Religions
  • Interdisciplinary Study of Religions: New Materials and Perspectives

This conference advocates for the use of new materials and methods to open up new areas of inquiry. It encourages interdisciplinary research, promoting comprehensive studies in history, religion, and art.

The organizing committee of this conference welcomes submissions related to the study of Buddhism and the interregional, cross-cultural themes of Asian religions. All related expenses, including accommodation and meals during the conference, will be covered by the organizers. Depending on available funds, the organizers may also provide partial travel allowances to participants in need. Papers presented at this conference will be published in a special issue of the journal Yazhou wenming shi yanjiu 亞洲文明史研究 [Studies in the History of Asian Civilizations]. Please email your proposal and resume by April 15, 2024, to frogbear.project@ubc.ca.

Scholars who are confident in completing a draft of their paper by early August 2024 and finalizing it by the end of November 2024 are welcome to apply.