Religious Studies | East Asian Buddhism
B310 | 28597 | H. Blair


Over the past two millenia, Buddhism in East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) has developed
into a rich and diverse set of traditions. To bring these into focus, we will examine a
particular set of physical and conceptual places where Buddhist belief and practice unfold.
First, we will examine Buddhist heavens and hells. Here our main concern is the role that
karma and devotion play as people move through the cosmos in a cycle of death and
rebirth. In the context of a classical Buddhist world-view, what does it mean to be saved 
or to save yourself? Second, we will look at life in the monastery. How do people become
monks and nuns, and once they do, what kinds of lives do they lead? Third, we will look at
the halls of state. Historically, how has Buddhism related to politics and government? What
does it mean for a religion to get politically involved? Finally, we will study pilgrimage
sites. Why is Buddhist pilgrimage so popular? How is it different from tourism? And how is
it changing today?

The aim of this course is to provide an engaging introduction to East Asian Buddhist
thought and practice, and to encourage students to think creatively and critically. Through
close readings of primary sources, short assignments, and participation in discussions and
debates, students will develop their analytical and communication skills. In two short
papers, students will also learn to use specific examples to back up their arguments, and
to synthesize evidence from a variety of sources. There is no textbook for this course;
instead the reading list draws heavily from primary materials such as narratives, sutra
literature, and poetry. We will also read a monograph on monastic life. Requirements
include two papers, four quizzes, and active participation in class discussions. No
prerequisites.