From Tiantai to Hiei: Transborder and Transcultural Spread of Tiantai/Chontae/Tendai/ Buddhism & East Asian Societies

From Tiantai to Hiei: Transborder and Transcultural Spread of Tiantai/Chontae/Tendai/ Buddhism & East Asian Societies

International Conference

From Tiantai to Hiei: Transborder and Transcultural Spread of Tiantai/Chontae/Tendai Buddhism and Its Impact on East Asian Societies

(Peking University; December 6-8, 2019)

Schedule Panelists

It would be difficult to find a more influential Chinese Buddhist monk than Tiantai Zhiyi 天台智顗 (538-597). He wrote a seminal treatise about Indian Buddhist meditation practices (e.g., Great Treatise on Concentration (śamatha) and Insight (vipśayanā), Mohe zhiguan 摩訶止觀), advocated for classifying the teachings (panjiao 判教) of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni into the five periods and eight teachings, and he wrote or monumental commentaries to three key Mahāyāna sūtras are attributed to him. These sūtras include the Lotus (Fahua xuanyi 法華玄義 and Fahua wenju 法華文句), Suvarṇabhāsottama (Jinguangming jing xuanyi 金光明經玄義 and Jingguangming jing wenju 金光明經文句), and Vimalakīrtinirdeśa (Weimo jing xuanshu 維摩經玄疏 and Weimo jing wenshu 維摩經文疏). Furthermore, by the 9th century the temple on Mount Tiantai in present day Zhejiang province which legend says was commissioned immediately after his death by emperor Sui Wendi 隋文帝 (r. 581-604), Guoqing monastery 國清寺, had become the focus of pilgrimage by monks from Japan and Korea. Pilgrims including Saichō 最澄 (767-822), Ennin 圓仁 (794-864), and Enchin 圓珍 (814-191) returned with Zhiyi’s teachings and those from their contemporaries at Guoqing si to establish two of the most enduring monastic institutions in Japan: Enryakuji 延暦寺 on Mount Hiei 比叡山 and Onjōji 園城寺 (alt. Miidera 三井寺).The organizing committee for the international conference on “Tiantai Buddhism and East Asian Societies” cordially invites the submission of related papers. The conference is hosted by the Center for Buddhist Studies at Peking University 北京大學佛教研究中心 in Beijing, China, sponsored by the Cultural Exchange Center of Mount Tiantai  天台山文化交流中心,  and co-organized by the From the Ground Up project based at the University of British Columbia ( The conference will be held between December 6 and 8, 2019 at Peking University.

Compared with other Buddhist traditions in East Asia, Tiantai/ Chontae/Tendai seems to have maintained particularly intensive and extensive engagement in doctrinal debates, resulting in the increasing deepening and widening of Buddhist teachings and practices as shown, among others, by the rare documents known as “Tōketsu” 唐決 (Authorizing Answers from Tang China). These documents amply demonstrate the multi-directional nature of the impacts between East Asian Buddhist communities and broach the extent to which Chinese Tiantai Buddhist scholiasts were influenced by their counterparts in Korea and Japan.

Tiantai adherents revolutionized the ritual life of Buddhism across China during the 10th and 11th centuries when the Jiangnan 江南 region remained a vibrant crossroads for monastics from across East Asia; Uicheon 義天 (1055-1101) traveled to Song China from Goryeo 高麗 Korea to meet eminent Tiantai and Huayan 華嚴 teachers. For nearly a millennium thereafter, monastics from the Tiantai or Tendai or Chontae traditions in China, Japan, and Korea interacted with members of other Buddhist traditions (esp. Vinaya, Chan, Huayan, or Esoteric Buddhism) and beyond to fundamentally shape religion in East Asia.

This conference seeks to address how Tiantai Buddhism spread throughout East Asia, and to explore how Tiantai teachings and teachers contributed to the multi-dimensional and multi-directional circulation of book culture in East Asia. In particular, we seek to investigate how Tiantai texts were exported from China to the rest of East Asia, and conversely how their re-importation back into China, especially from the Korean peninsula and Japan, transformed not only the intellectual history of East Asian Buddhism, but also how the trade in specifically Tiantai books—not necessarily Buddhist—can be an innovative lens through which to examine the social, economic, institutional, and religious life of East Asia.

In order to retrace the historical development of East Asian Tiantai Buddhism that spread from Mount Tiantai and the Jiangnan across East Asia, this conference proposes the following themes that are not exclusive:

  • Translation, collection, compilation and propagation of East Asian Tiantai Buddhist texts;
  • Circulation and redistribution of Tiantai literature across East Asia;
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhists and the book trade;
  • “Currents and Countercurrents”: Doctrinal debates among Tiantai/ Chontae/Tendai Scholar-monks;
  • Philosophical Development in Tiantai/Chontae/Tendai: A Pan-East Asian Perspective
  • Practices and transmission of East Asian Tiantai Buddhism and the development and changes in other East Asian societies;
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhism and painting, sculpture and art;
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhism and literature;
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhism and medieval astronomy, calendrical calculations, mathematics, and science;
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhists and miracle tales
  • East Asian Tiantai Buddhism and the spread and development of technological inventions and transformations in medieval Asia;
  • Interactions between East Asian Tiantai Buddhists and non-Buddhist religious teachers, traditions and developments;
  • Tiantai Buddhism and the military and diplomacy in East Asia.

The organizing committee welcomes all paper proposals related to Tiantai Buddhism and East Asian societies. 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 travel subsidy to selected panelists who are in need of funding. Please email proposals and CVs to by April 30, 2019.

A conference volume will collect all the papers in English, plus English translations of several papers written in languages other than English; a volume in Chinese, to be published in China, will include Chinese versions for all papers not written in Chinese in addition to those papers contributed by our colleagues based in China. Only scholars who are confident in finishing their draft papers by the end of October and publishable papers by the spring of 2020 are encouraged to apply.