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International Conference on “Esoteric Buddhism and East Asian Society”

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St. John's College

2111 Lower Mall

Vancouver, BC V6T

Canada

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International Conference on “Esoteric Buddhism and East Asian Society”

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Recently, scholars have been paying more and more attention to the significance of Tang Esoteric Buddhism in relation to material culture and the dissemination of Esoteric Buddhist technologies in South, Central, and East Asia. Monks initiated into the esoteric lineages not only brought Buddhist classics and practices to China, but also advanced knowledge in astronomy, calendarial calculations and mathematical theories. And their medicinal and surgical aptitude directly benefited the elite of the Tang empire, leaving a permanent mark on the medieval history of Chinese medicine. Meanwhile, there are important connections to be drawn between Tang Esoteric Buddhism and commerce, military, diplomacy and even the invention of printing; these are the kinds of connection scholars too often overlook.

Tang Buddhism, anchored in Chang’an, extended its influence beyond China to other regions within the Sinosphere, including Korea, Japan, Vietnam and countries further afield in Southeast, South and Central Asia. After Indian Buddhism arrived in the metropolitan city of Chang’an, advocates shared doctrinal teaching, cosmological schemes, and ritual procedures with Daoists, Confucians, and members of other faiths—including Christianity and Manichaeism—to produce a religious culture during the Sui-Tang period that drew pilgrims from across the known world. Thanks to the assiduous translations and preaching of Śubhakarasiṃha (637–735), Vajrabodhi (671–741), and Amoghavajra (705–774), revered as the “Three Mahāsattavs during the Kaiyuan Era (713–741)”, Tang Esoteric Buddhism became mainstream Buddhism in the city and at court, consequently affecting all other Buddhist traditions. This heterogeneous nature of Esoteric Buddhism profoundly influenced all aspects of Buddhism in medieval Japan.

In order to retrace the historical development of East Asian Esoteric Buddhism that spread from Chang’an across East Asia, this conference proposes the following themes that are not exclusive:

  • Translation, collection, compilation and propagation of East Asian Esoteric Buddhist texts;
  • Practices and transmission of East Asian Esoteric Buddhism and the development and changes in other East Asian societies;
  • East Asian Esoteric Buddhism and painting, sculpture and art;
  • East Asian Esoteric Buddhism and literature;
  • East Asian Esoteric Buddhism and medieval astronomy, calendrical calculation and mathematics;
  • East Asian Esoteric Buddhism and the spread and development of technological inventions and transformations in medieval Asia (print, gunpowder, manufacturing, and smelting);
  • Esoteric Buddhism and the military and diplomacy in East Asia.

For more information about this conference, please visit Tianzhu Global Network or FROGBEAR. The schedule for this two-day conference is forthcoming. Conference attendees (non-presenters) are responsible for their own transportation and for their own meals. Register today as there is limited event capacity.

This conference is sponsored by the Tianzhu Global Network for Buddhism and East Asian Culture, and organized by the project From the Ground Up based at the University of British Columbia.

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St. John's College

2111 Lower Mall

Vancouver, BC V6T

Canada

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