Foreign languages and cultures
Study-unit Code
In all curricula
Ester Bianchi
  • Ester Bianchi
  • 54 ore - Ester Bianchi
Course Regulation
Coorte 2021
Learning activities
Attività formative affini o integrative
Academic discipline
Type of study-unit
Type of learning activities
Attività formativa monodisciplinare
Language of instruction
The purpose of this course is to provide basic elements of Buddhist thought, and an overview on the spread and consolidation of Buddhism in China. Emphasis will be placed on Chinese Buddhism in the modern era, tracing its evolution from the early 1900s to current trends.
** Students of Chinese Literature 3, will be offered a module in literary translation from modern Chinese (taught in cooperation with Anna Di Toro).
Reference texts
* 1. Lamotte, Etienne, “The Buddha, his Teachings and his Sangha.” In Bechert and R. Gombrich (eds.), The World of Buddhism: Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture, Facts on File, New York 1984, pp. 41-58.
* 2. Zürcher, Erik, “‘Beyond the Jade Gate’: Buddhism in China, Vietnam and Korea.” In Bechert and R. Gombrich (eds.), The World of Buddhism: Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture, Facts on File, New York 1984, pp. 193-211.
* 3. Tansen Sen, “The Spread of Buddhism to China: A Re-examination of the Buddhist Interactions between Ancient India and China, China Report 48, 1&2 (2012): 11–27.
* 4. Xing Guang, “Buddhist Impact on Chinese Culture.” Asian Philosophy 23/4, 2013: 305-322.
• 5. Ji, Zhe, “Buddhist Institutional Innovations.” In Goossaert, J. Kiely and J. Lagerwey (eds.), Modern Chinese Religion II: 1850-2015, Brill, Leiden 2015, pp. 729-766.

In addition to the above listed FIVE main essays, the student will need to choose ONE essay from the following list to present in class (midterm exam), and FOUR more essays for the final exam (SIX FOR THE STUDENT WHO CANNOT ATTEND CLASSES).
• 6. Nedostup, Rebecca, “Introduction: Religion, Modernity, Nationalism.” In Superstitious Regimes. Religion and the Politics of Chinese Modernity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2009, pp. 1-24.
• 7. Ritzinger, Justin R., “Parsing Buddhist Modernity in Republican China. Ten Contrasting Terms.” In H. Havnevik, U. Hüsken, M. Teeuwen, V. Tikhonov, and K. Wellens, (eds.), Buddhist Modernities: Re-inventing Tradition in the Globalizing Modern World, Routledge, London and New York 2017, pp. 51-65.
• 8. Ritzinger, Justin R., “Original Buddhism and its Discontents: The Chinese Buddhist Exchange Monks and the Search for the Pure Dharma in Ceylon.” Journal of Chinese Religions 44/2, 2016, pp. 149-173.
• 9. Schicketanz, Erik, “Narratives of Buddhist Decline and the Concept of the Sect (zong) in Modern Chinese Buddhist Thought”, Studies in Chinese Religions 3/3, 2017, pp. 281-300.
• 10. Eyal Aviv, “Ambitions and Negotiations: The Growing Role of Laity in 20th Century Chinese Buddhism”, Journal of the Oxford Centre of Buddhist Studies 1 (2011): 31-54.
• 11. Welch, Holmes, The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 1967, pp. 179-206.
• 12. Bianchi, Ester, “Yi jie wei shi ¿¿¿¿. Theory and Practice of Monastic Discipline in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Buddhism.” Studies in Chinese Religions 3/2, 2017: 111-141.
• 13. Welch, Holmes, The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 1967, pp. 47-88.
• 14. Yifeng Liu, “Forging Sanctity: The Way Laiguo became a Saint”, Studies in Chinese Religions 6, 4 (2020): 386-406.
• 15. Kiely, Jan, “The Charismatic Monk and Chanting Masses: Master Yinguang and His Pure Land Revival Movement.” In Goossaert, Z. Ji and D. Ownby (eds.), Making Saints in Modern China, Oxford University Press, New York 2017, pp. 30-77.
• 16. Ester Bianchi, “Revisiting Impurity in Republican China: An Evaluation of the Modern Rediscovery of Bujing guan ¿¿¿”, in Religions, 12, 903 (2021): 1-20.
• 17. Chen, Bing. “The Tantric Revival and Its Reception in Modern China.” In M. Esposito (ed.), Images of Tibet in the 19th and 20th Centuries, E.F.E.O., Paris 2008, pp. 387-427.
• 18. McMahan, David L., “Modernity and the Discourse of Scientific Buddhism.” In D. L. McMahan (ed.), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008, 89-116.
• 19. Kang Xiaofei, “Women and the Religion Question in Modern China.” In Goossaert, J. Kiely and J. Lagerwey (eds.), Modern Chinese Religion II: 1850-2015, Brill, Leiden 2015, pp. 492-559.
• 20. De Vido, Elise A. 2015. “Networks and Bridges: Nuns in the Making of Modern Chinese Buddhism.” The Chinese Historical Review, 22/1: 72-93.
• 21. Kiely, Jan, “The Communist Dismantling of Temple and Monastic Buddhism in Suzhou.” In Kiely and J. B. Jessup (eds.), Recovering Buddhism in Modern China, Columbia University Press, New York 2016, pp. 216-254.
• 22. Laliberté, André, “Buddhist Revival Under State Watch”, Journal of Current Affairs 40/2, 2011a, pp. 107-134.
• 23. Birnbaum, Raoul, “Buddhist China at the Century’s Turn”, The China Quarterly 174, 2003, pp. 451-467.
• 24. Campo Daniela, “Chinese Buddhism in the post-Mao era: Preserving and Reinventing the Received Tradition”, in Stephan Feuchtwang (ed.), Handbook on Religion in China, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020, pp. 255-280.
• 25. Bingenheimer, Marcus, “Chinese Buddhism Unbound: Rebuilding and Redefining Chinese Buddhism in Taiwan”, in Kalpakam Sankarnarayan (ed.), Buddhism in Global Perspective, Somaiya Publications, Mumbai 2003, pp. 122-146.
• 26. Ashiwa, Yoshiko and David L. Wank, “The Globalization of Chinese Buddhism: Clergy and Devotee Networks in the Twentieth Century”, International Journal of Asian Studies 65/2, 2006, pp. 337-359
• 27. Ji Zhe, “Zhao Puchu and His Renjian Fojiao”, The Eastern Buddhist 44/2, 2013: 35-58.
• 28. Lai, Rongdao and Jessica Main, “Introduction: Reformulating ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ as an Analytical Category.” The Eastern Buddhist (feature on Socially Engaged Buddhism) 44/2, 2014: 1-34.

Documentary Film The Buddhist Nun of Emei Mountain (Chengdu Economy TV Station, 1995, 30 minutes).
Documentary Film ¿¿ ALMS (2010, 26 minutes).
Documentary Film ¿ VOWS (2013, 37 minutes)
Documentary Film «¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿»(The Most Outstanding Bhik¿u¿i in Modern China: Master Longlian).
Documentary film: “The Mountain Path” (2022, 1 h 30 minutes)
Documentary Films about Taiwanese Humanistic Buddhism.

Students with disabilities, may contact the Department in charge.
Educational objectives
The course aims to enhance knowledge of the fundamental principles of Buddhist thought, cosmology, and orthopraxis, aligning with the educational objectives of the Course in Philosophy and Ethics of Relations. This knowledge also serves as a crucial cultural foundation for teaching philosophy.
The course aims to deepen understanding of the historical development, practices, and doctrines of Chinese Buddhism, particularly in the modern era. This objective aligns with the educational goals of the Course in Philosophy and Ethics of Relations, in refining general knowledge of the historical evolution of philosophical thought.
Additionally, the course seeks to develop skills in theoretical analysis of Buddhist thought, with a specific focus on East Asia, addressing various aspects of human existence such as social, political, religious, aesthetic, and cognitive dimensions. Also these objectives are in line with the goals of the general Course.
Lastly, the course aims to equip students with the skills necessary to act as cultural mediators for migrants from East and Southeast Asia, particularly in religious contexts.
Chinese language (highly recommended but not compulsory).
To attend this class students shall have acquired a basic knowledge of Chinese Imperial and modern history. Those that did not study Chinese history before, are kindly requested to read a book on “History of China”.
Teaching methods
The course is organized as follows:
- standard classes on the main topics of the program;
- special lessons and conferences given by invited professors;
- further studies (students will further be presented with workshops and with documentaries and movies);
- educational visits (museums, exhibitions etc.).
UNISTUDIUM e-learning platform will be broadly used both to share information and materials and to communicate with students.
Other information
The course is targeted at MA students in Chinese Society and Culture (MA in Philosophy and Ethic of Relations and MA in Socioanthropological Studies); it is also addressed to students in Chinese Literature III (BA in Foreign Languages and Civilizations).
Learning verification modality
The final oral exam will be held in English or Italian, as the student prefers. It lasts half an hour and is meant to test the student's understanding of a certain topic of Chinese Buddhism within its historical, socio-cultural, philosophical, and religious context.
In addition to the four main essays, the student will need to choose five additional essays from the provided "reference texts" list to bring for the exam.
During the course students will be given the opportunity to prepare a paper on a specific topic (one additional text from the "reference texts", which will be presented in class and which will serve as part of the exam (1/3 of the final exam score). As an alternative to the thesis and in-class presentation, students of Chinese literature can opt to take the module of literary translation with Professor Anna Di Toro.

In addition to the four main essays, the student will need to choose seven additional essays from the "reference texts" list to bring for the exam.

In general terms, the exam focuses on the following aspects:
· Knowledge and understanding - Ability to apply knowledge and understanding: Summary
· Knowledge and understanding - Ability to apply knowledge and understanding: Detail
· Autonomy of judgment, understood as the ability to produce autonomous judgments, arriving at coherent reflections on social, scientific or ethical issues;
· Communication skills, conceived as the ability to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to other interlocutors;
· Learning ability, understood as the necessary skill to advance in studies with a high degree of autonomy

In case a student intends to anticipate his/her exam in a year preceding the one it is scheduled in his/her curriculum, it is recommended to anticipate as well the attendance of the lessons and to schedule the exam in the first useful session after the lessons have been concluded.

For students' accommodations, please see: https://www.unipg.it/disabilita-e-dsa.
Extended program
The purpose of this course is to provide basic elements of Buddhist thought, and an overview on the spread and consolidation of Buddhism in China, with a focus on its modern and contemporary developments. In particular, the course aims at introducing students to the ways in which Buddhists in China have engaged and continue to engage with modernity. In modern times, Chinese Buddhists found themselves confronted with new cultural models, social structures, political ideologies, philosophical concepts, and with globalization. Modern Chinese Buddhism emerged from a variety of reactions to these and other challenges posed by modernity.
The course will follow the trends of Chinese Buddhism from the early twentieth century down to the most recent developments in the present. We will explore modern constructions of Buddhism in China, distinguishing between modernism and modernity, and investigating how Chinese Buddhists introduced reforms and innovations, while also attempting to maintain continuity with traditional ideals and modes of practice.
After an introduction to Buddhism and its history and influence in China (weeks 1-2), the course will focus on the responses of Chinese Buddhists to the emergence of a modern nation-state and a modern society, and to the development of a modern conception of Buddhism as a pan-Asian religion. The next segment will treat the tensions between reform efforts and traditional forms of practice during the Republic of China (1911-1949), giving space to the deeds and impact of prominent Buddhist figures, to the reconstruction of lineages and the invention of traditions, to lay and monastic interactions, and to the encounter of Buddhism and modern scholarship. We will then explore specific aspects of modern and contemporary Chinese Buddhism, notably its engagement with modern sciences and gender issues in Buddhism, two topics that will introduce us to the second half of the 20th century. This will allow us to turn to Buddhism during Maoist China (1949-1979) and the reform era in Mainland China (1978-present), including state-religion relations and modes of religious practice. Finally, we will explore, Buddhism in Taiwan and among the Chinese Diaspora abroad, and one of the major features of modern Chinese Buddhism in the broad Sinosphere, namely Humanistic Buddhism and its social engagement.
The course will be complemented by the screening of documentary films on monastic life and practices in contemporary China.
Obiettivi Agenda 2030 per lo sviluppo sostenibile
4 Quality education
5 Gender equality
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