Postdoctoral fellows contribute richly to our program’s success as researchers onsite in East Asia and at partner institutions in East Asian, North America and Europe. They also help meet our overall goals and specific objectives by assuming some supervisory responsibilities for undergraduate and graduate students.
Postdoctoral Fellows at University of British Columbia
Frank Clements completed his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. His research focuses on the Japanese tradition of Shugendō mountain asceticism, which synthesizes esoteric Buddhist practices, Daoist immortality beliefs, and the worship of indigenous deities. More specifically, he concentrates on the activities of households of ascetics affiliated with Mt. Haguro in northern Japan during the Tokugawa and early Meiji periods. His current project explores how these households were embedded in the economic, social, and political contexts of the village community and Haguro’s transregional administrative networks. Elite households used strategies of document production and exchange to develop and defend a household identity that was vital to Haguro Shugendō. His broader research interests include the religious and folk cultures of northern Japan, the relationship between asceticism, magic, and supernatural entities, and the development and structure of sacred mountain-based religious communities across East Asia.
During Fall 2018 he taught “ASIA 250: Introduction to Buddhism” and “ASIA 387: Japanese Religions” at UBC.
2018-2020, funded by Tianzhu Buddhist Network, with research support from SSHRC.
Zeng Yang specializes in East Asian Buddhism and Cultural Exchange. His current research interest lies in the interplay between the supernatural and spiritual understandings of religious practice and the practical and worldly concerns of the society, to approach more balanced understandings of religious history. Venues of such dynamics under examination include various desperate difficulties faced by individuals, social groups, or the whole nation, such as natural disasters, ideological, political, or military crisis, severe diseases or plague, crop failure, famine, etc. His current book project is designed to enrich his doctoral studies with research in such a perspective: How Esoteric Buddhism in 8th century China was witnessed, believed, and promulgated to have invoked divine
intervention, and these practices combined to have saved the Tang dynasty from multiple crises. His previous project was the biographical study of the Sillan great writer Choe Chiwon, with the translation of his anthology. His M.A. in Philosophy was earned at Peking University, focusing on a Chinese monk’s reinterpretation of Confucian classics according to Buddhist spirit and doctrine.
Project Title: The Institution of Esoteric Buddhism and the Economy of Religious Enterprise in Mid-Tang Period (2018–2020)
Description: The proposed research project deals with the sectarian institution and monastic practices of Esoteric Buddhism in China from the mid-eighth to the early ninth century. It is aimed to reveal that the dynamism between the school’s soteriology and the contemporary social circumstances shaped the monastic practice as a sort of sectarian business to finance the school’s institution. The first part of the research work explores how the monks’ service to the Tang empire laid the solid financial foundation of the institutions according to Amoghavajra’s (705–774) soteriological thought, and the second part discusses how his disciples adapted Amoghavajra’s Esoteric ideology and developed a new type of business to attract new patrons in a worsened politico-economic condition. The investigation will involve extensive examination of various types of historical sources, including texts, inscriptions, and iconographies, and the subject issues to be addressed encompass rituals, doctrines, and political, military, and economic backgrounds. Employing the theory of “rational option”, it will interpret the generous sponsorship to the institutions of Esoteric Buddhism and various ritual programs as a choice that was perceived reasonable instead of unreasonable misconduct of the court. The outcome would advance our knowledge about the prosperity of Esoteric Buddhism during the reign of Emperor Daizong (762–779) and penetrate the mystifying fortunes of the school in the subsequent reigns. It is expected to show the value of economic approach in the enquiry into the history of the religious institution. It would also remind that the theological logic and religious ethics may have held normative force over economic activities in monasticism. The research outcome is hoped to exert reference value for the partner organization to develop charitable projects to attract more social support.
2018-2020, funded by SSHRC and Mitacs Accelerate Program.
Ernest Billings (Billy) Brewster received his Ph.D. from Harvard University’s EALC in 2018 with a dissertation titled, the Yoga of Dying: Xuanzang on the Nature of Death. This study examines the investigation undertaken by Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-667 C.E.), the translator and peripatetic scholar-monk of the Tang Dynasty, and his translation team, into the nature of dying. It finds that within their exegeses and translations of the Abhidharma and Yogācāra texts, Xuanzang and his collaborators, restore the Buddhist tenets of no-self, karma, and reincarnation, and provide the doctrinal basis for deathbed rituals that are practiced across East Asia today.
Billy is currently Sheng Yen Postdoc. in Chinese Buddhism at UBC, Vancouver. He has primary research interest in Chinese Buddhism, with strong secondary interest in classical south Asian religions and philosophy. Recently, Billy has published an article on theoretical debates on Yogācāra Buddhist doctrines of intersubjectivity and “same world” in the context of Ming-Dynasty Philosophy, see his article forthcoming in the Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies (Vol. 31, July 2018), titled, “What is Our Shared Sensory World? Ming-Dynasty Debates on the Huayan versus Yogācāra Doctrines”
2018-2019, funded by the Sheng Yen Education Foundation, with research support from SSHRC.
Kaiqi Hua is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Asian Studies. He is a historian of religion and society during the 13th and 14th centuries in Mongol Eurasia and Chinese Inner Asia’s states including the Mongol Yuan and the Tangut Xi Xia.
Regarding history, he focuses on the Mongol Empire (13-14th centuries), especially the Yuan dynasty in China (1271-1368), the history of Tangut people and the diaspora from the Xi Xia Kingdom (1038-1227), and the history of the Silk Road (which connected East Asia and Inner Asia).
Regarding Buddhism, he focuses on unorthodox Buddhist movements and heretic sects, and Buddhist book printing.
Kaiqi is also interested in digital humanities, especially historical databases and digital maps.
2017-2019, funded by Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, with research support from SSHRC.
Heawon Choi is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Asian Studies. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, Buddhist traditions in East Asia and the intellectual and cultural history of Chinese religions with a special focus on the early to medieval era. She is particularly interested in the Chinese reception of Buddhism and the interaction and conflicts between Buddhism and native traditions. Similarly, her research interests concern the Buddhist influence on indigenous Chinese worldviews and further, on the religious/spiritual life of Chinese people. She intends to expand her research on the relationship between Buddhism and native traditions to include other East Asian countries, such as Korea and Japan, and beyond, utilizing a cross-cultural and comparative view. One of her current research projects deals with religious syncretism and pluralism in ancient China based on medieval Chinese Buddhist and secular texts. She attempts to approach the topic by employing various modern theories of religious/philosophical syncretism and pluralism. As a native Korean, she has studied at Yonsei University, Seoul (B.A. and M.A.), Northwestern University, IL (M.A.), and Stanford University, CA (Ph.D.).
2016-2018, funded by Tianzhu Buddhist Network, with research support from SSHRC.
Postdoctoral Fellow at Centre d’études interdisciplinaires sur le bouddhisme (CEIB)
This postdoctoral position is facilitated by FROGBEAR Project, and is funded by the Liuzu Temple. It is a one-year position, commencing on September 1, 2018. The Fellow will be given first priority for one additional year at the Dharma Drum Institute for Liberal Arts (DILA) in Taiwan, and a third year at Ghent University in Belgium, subject to availability of funds, performance appraisal, and approval from each Institution.
Huayan (Cécile) WANG is Postdoctoral research fellow on the history of Buddhism at the Centre d’Etudes Interdisciplinaires sur le Bouddhisme (CEIB) of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris. She received her Ph.D. in history from the École des hautes études en sciences socials (Paris) in 2015. Her main study area is history and anthropology of Chinese religions, especially their social and political role in local societies. Her recent publications include “Le bouddhisme Azhali du peuple Bai: une tradition bouddhiste locale au sud-ouest de la Chine”, in Archives de sciences sociales des religions, numéro spécial “China-Inde”, 2020, forthcoming; “To know how to predict, to translate, and to write: the division of religious work in the rebulding of a temple in Changzhi (Shanxi) today”, with Guillaume Dutournier, Routledge, London, 2019, forthcoming; “The Revival of the Cult of Cui Fujun in Shanxi and Hebei”, in Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore, 195 (2017.3): 79–140; “Cui Fujun : un protecteur des empereurs du Xème au XIIème siècle ?”. Études chinoises, Vol. XXXI-1 (2012), p. 49–65. For more information visit: http://ceib.nhvvs.fr/wang-huayan/.
During her Postdoctoral fellowship, she assisted professor Vincent Goossaert in preparing the Chinese Religious Text Authority database project (CRTA) which has made encouraging progress. Some pilot committee members held a meeting at Paris in November 2018 to decide the outline of the project. For the first phase of the project, 4,000 volumes of religious books have been selected to be input in the database; each time contains seventeen entries. An informatics technician based at the EPHE is employed to build the database system. The project has also contacted more than thirty scholars on Chinese religions in the world and half of them have accepted to participate in the project. As part of the project, a workshop aiming to train young scholars in reading Chinese religious texts will be held at Aussois in France in December 2019. The project hope this training will be regular, such as once a year.
She also helped organize the International and Intensive Program on Buddhism and East Asian Cultures at Inalco in Paris at July 6–24. This year, the program, supported by the Tianzhu Global Network of Buddhist Studies, had united forty students and twenty professors for four intensive courses, a workshop and a young scholars’ forum. She herself participated in “the 2nd International Workshop on Religions in Modern China”.
She was also invited by the Ghent University to give a lecture on “Frontier, Ethnicity and Religion: the Azhali Buddhist tradition of the Bai people in South-western China” in the “Permanent Training Lecture Series” on “Buddhist Traditions of East Asia” in April 24 2019.
2018-2019, funded by Tianzhu Buddhist Network, with research support from SSHRC.