Lingyin Lecture Series in Buddhist Studies Trinity Term 2021

With the generous support of Lingyin Monastery, we would like to announce the upcoming lectures for the Lingyin Lecture Series in Buddhist Studies for Trinity Term 2021 at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University. Our two lectures and speakers are as follows:

Dr. Stefania Travagnin, May 24 2021, 5 PM UK time
“Buddhist Discourses in Modern Suining 遂寧 (Eastern Sichuan)

From the Local Legend of Guanyin to the Quest for ‘Original Buddhism’”

Studies on Buddhism in modern Sichuan have been limited mostly to few case studies and places. However, an in-depth research on the history of Buddhism in Sichuan reveals a richer picture, involving several rural and urban centres, overlapping monastic and lay networks, and a wide range of activities. One of these understudied yet crucial places is Suining 遂寧 in Eastern Sichuan.

The development of Buddhism in Republican Suining is centered on the interface of three elements: the local belief that Suining is the hometown of Guanyin 觀音; life and practice of the monk Qingfu 清福 (1862-1940), who was a leading figure in the revival of attention for early Buddhism and the Theravāda tradition; the ‘invisible’ yet growing female communities, who were seen as Guanyin’s legacy and closely associated with the monk Qingfu.

Based on fieldwork encounters, archival documents, epigraphic material, city gazetteers and unpublished temple records, this presentation will explore Buddhist discourses in modern Suining in interrelation with overarching dynamics that characterize Buddhism in modern China, and in certain respects also East Asia. This study will adopt a micro-history approach that ‘zooms in’ lived religious practices and unique local narratives that have been so far mostly unheard. At the same time, it will show that Suining Buddhism also reflected, on a first macro-level, key features of Buddhism in modern Sichuan, like the participation in specific networks of monastics and sites. And, on a second macro-level, it engaged in significant Chinese and regional discourses, such as the call for a new model of Sangha training and education, and the quest for ‘original Buddhism’ (yuanshi fojiao 原始佛教).

The lecture will be held online via MS Teams Meetings via THIS LINK.

Dr. Charles DiSimone, May 31 2021, 5 PM UK time
“Scratching the Surface of Buddhist Textuality at Mes Aynak and Beyond”

In the past few years, new manuscript discoveries have been uncovered in the course of the ongoing excavation of the archeological site at the ancient city of Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Mes Aynak sits atop the largest deposit of copper in the world and was a site of ongoing copper mining and smelting from at least the late Bronze Age until around the 6th century CE. The site itself was occupied to varying degrees until perhaps the 8th or 9th centuries CE. It was a site of strong Buddhist influence housing a monastic center and multiple temples, but it also held multiple Zoroastrian shrines. The manuscript material uncovered so far indicate the cosmopolitan nature of the site with Buddhist material spanning both Mahāyāna and Śrāvakayāna (Mainstream) Buddhist thought as well as the presence of Bactrian documentation, a language that was not typically used in the transmission of Buddhist textuality. In this talk, I will discuss this new manuscript evidence focusing on an analysis of seven groups of manuscript fragments found at the site copied on birch bark folios in the Gilgit/Bamiyan Type I script dating from between the 6th–7th centuries of the Common Era. Works identified include witnesses of the Maitreyavyākaraṇa, Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra, and Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā that have been found intermixed with an unclear number of unidentified works.

The lecture will be held online via MS Teams Meetings via THIS LINK.


About our speakers:

Stefania Travagnin teaches at SOAS, University of London. She obtained a BA and MA in Chinese Studies from Ca’ Foscari University (2000), and a PhD in the Study of Religions from SOAS (2009). Her research and publications analyze Buddhism and Buddhists in modern China and Taiwan. Her publications include the edited volumes Religion and Media in China (Routledge 2016), and the three-volume series on concepts and methods for the study of Chinese religions published by De Gruyter (2019-2020): Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions I: State of the Field and Disciplinary Approaches (co-edited with André Laliberté), Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions II: Intellectual History of Key Concepts (co-edited with Gregory Adam Scott), Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions III: Key Concepts in Practice (co-edited with Paul R. Katz). She is now directing, with Elena Valussi, the project ‘Mapping Religious Diversity in Modern Sichuan’ funded by the CCKF (2017-2021).

Stefania Travagnin • Department of Religions and Philosophies, School of History, Religions and Philosophies • SOAS • University of London • London WC1H 0XG • United Kingdom

Charles DiSimone is an FWO Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University. He received his doctorate from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and has held positions at the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, LMU Munich, and Mahidol University. His research primarily focuses upon the applications of philological, codicological, and critical analysis of Buddhist sūtra manuscripts and literature, both Mahāyāna and Mainstream. Recent publications include research on scribal practices in the Gilgit area and Greater Gandhāra and a book on the (Mūla-)Sarvāstivāda Dīrghāgama manuscript (Wisdom 2021).

Charles DiSimone • Department of Languages and Cultures • Ghent Center for Buddhist Studies • Ghent University • Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent • Belgium