Report on CRTA (Chinese Religious Texts Authority) workshop

Report on CRTA (Chinese Religious Texts Authority) workshop

[Photo courtesy of Yan Yiqiao]


CRTA (Chinese Religious Texts Authority)

Aussois workshop, 15-19 December 2019

Report to Frogbear


This workshop trained young scholars in the reading and analysis of a large range of late imperial Chinese religious texts. The call was successful with nearly 50 candidates, among whom we finally selected 17 with criteria of diversity (career stage, gender, field, geographical origin). The workshop was funded by Frogbear and EPHE. We had to arrange car rental at the last minute (from Paris to Aussois in the Alps, 700 km away) since it was the middle of a general strike in France but everything went fine. There was a unanimous feeling of overcoming all odds, making a very exciting event happen, creating a warm group spirit and getting a lot out of it, primarily intellectually. A number of Chinese students were also fascinated by nature and village life in the snow-covered French Alps.

After a one-day seminar in Paris, to which about half the group of young scholars attended (the other arrived in Paris later), we went to the CNRS Center in Aussois where we stayed, ate together and used our seminar room morning to night for four days. We first explained the CRTA project, its aims and philosophy, and the database structure. Then the six instructors (Bingenheimer, Campo, Alexander, Wang, Scott and Goossaert) each directed a three-hour session on a specific genre of religious texts with a different pedagogical approach. All were involving the active participation of the young scholars (many small-group readings of passages of the studied texts).

Finally, each of the young scholars made a presentation of texts s/he had worked on when preparing for the workshop (in most cases, texts they had not previously worked with for their own research), which both opened everyone’s eyes to corners of the Chinese religious literature we previously knew nothing about, and raised fruitful questions leading to refine the CRTA database structure and templates. Furthermore, since the six instructors constitute a majority of the CRTA project steering committee, we had nightly meetings that allowed us to precisely plan the next stages for the project’s development.



Friday 13 Dec

whole day seminar given by Marcus Bingenheimer, training in SNA (Social Network Analysis) software and methodology, EPHE, Paris

Sunday 15 Dec     Paris- Aussois

pm: presentation of the CRTA project, discussion

Mon 16 Dec

am: Greg Scott: modern Buddhist periodicals and monographs
pm: Katherine Alexander: nineteenth-century baojuan

Tues 17 Dec

am: Marcus Bingenheimer: Buddhist mountain and temple gazetteers
pm: outdoor activities (bring good shoes)
night (2 hours): young scholars presentation of one text each and CRTA entry (1)
Wang Huayan: Temple stele inscriptions from Yunnan

Wedn 18 Dec

am: Daniela Campo: modern Buddhist sermons
pm: Vincent Goossaert: late Qing morality books

Thur 19 Dec

young scholars presentation of one text each and CRTA entry (2)



The first outcome is for all the young scholars to acquire basic knowledge and experience reading religious texts of different genres, most crucially in genres they had not worked with before.

Second, all participants express a willingness to be part of the CRTA project and to continue contributing in the future. One of the participants has written a Chinese-language report that will be published in the next issue of 《善書、經卷與文獻》a new journal on Chinese religious texts published in Taiwan. The first issue, December 2019, had a presentation of the CRTA project written by Goossaert and translated by Wang Huayan.

Third, each participant creates three entries for the CRTA database. As of March 2020, these are being used to test the database template and are thus extremely important as the first building block of the project open-access data production. We will keep the Frogbear community informed of the database developments at every turn.


Next steps

We hope to hold a similar workshop organized in China in 2020, perhaps Macao, with a possibility of attending spirit-writing sessions there and/or in Hong Kong; and another in 2021 in Taiwan with more spirit-writing fieldwork. We have advanced plans and contact, but the coronavirus concern is, of course, putting all of this on hold.

Meanwhile, we hope to have the database open and accessible with the data created at the Aussois workshop through Spring 2020; then, build the worldwide CRTA community, get more volunteers to contribute data while also applying for grants to get to the next level and produce data in a more systematic way and on a larger scale.