CCCH9018 China: Culture, State and Society
Buddhism and Chinese Culture

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

This course is designed to help students to understand Chinese culture and its Buddhist influences. For over two thousand years, Buddhism has interacted with all levels of Chinese culture such as literature, philosophy, mores and behavioural norms, arts and architecture, and religions of all classes. As a result, Buddhism has become one of the three pillars of traditional Chinese culture and its influence is seen in many aspects and at all levels of Chinese culture. The aim of the course is to enhance students’ intellectual understanding of Chinese culture, way of life, and belief through historical analysis and theoretical enquiries into the key aspects of China’s long interaction with Buddhism. Attention will be paid to the open attitude of both Buddhism and Confucianism as a basis for integration and mutual assimilation. Topics include: Buddhist impact on Chinese culture; intellectual exchange between Buddhism and Chinese culture; Buddhist and Chinese attitude to life: A comparative study; Buddhist and Chinese ethics of filial piety; Buddhism and Chinese visual art; Chan and Chinese culture; Buddhist influence on Chinese language and literature; Buddhist influence on religions and popular beliefs; Guanyin belief in Chinese life. Lectures are organized in such a way as to first introduce students to the philosophical traditions and their thoughts, with follow-up discussions on specific topics.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a better understanding of the role Buddhist culture plays in the various forms of Chinese life such as thought, value, visual art, architecture, literature, language, and folk beliefs.
  2. Demonstrate an awareness of the characteristics and diversities of China’s cultural heritage and the impact of Buddhism.
  3. Use relevant information to critically examine how significant Buddhist culture is in Chinese people’s daily life such as Guanyin belief and ancestor worship.
  4. Apply the knowledge and understanding gained to study the deeper implications of Buddhist thought for modern society together with other philosophical and religious systems.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Course will be offered twice:
Section 1 – First semester (Wed); Section 2 – Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 60
Fieldwork / Visits 4
Assessment: Essay writing 22
Assessment: Quiz (incl preparation) 3
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 15
Total: 140

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Lecture and tutorial participation and presentation 20
Group presentation 20
Mid-term essay / Quiz 25
Final essay 35

Required Reading

  • Guang, X. (2011). Avalokiteśvara in China. The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, 11, 1-22.
  • Guang, X. (2012). Buddhist influence on Chinese religions and popular beliefs. International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture, 18, 135-257.
  • Guang, X. (2012). Yulanpen Festival and Chinese ancestor worship. Journal of Buddhist Studies, 9, 123-143.
  • Guang, X. (2013). Buddhist impact on Chinese culture. Asian Philosophy, 23(4), 305-322.
  • Guang, X. (2013). Buddhist influence on Chinese language. Journal of Buddhist Studies, 10, 130-152.
  • Guang, X. (2013). Early Buddhist and Confucian concepts of filial piety: A comparative study. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 4, 8-46.
  • Guang, X. (2014). Buddhist and Confucian attitudes toward life: A comparative study. International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture, 21, 7-48.
  • Overmyer, D. L., & Adler, J. (2005). Chinese religion: An overview. In L. Jones (Ed.), Encyclopedia of religion (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1580-1613). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.
  • Rahula, W. (1974). What the Buddha taught. New York: Grove Press.
  • Thorp, R. L., & Vinograd, R. E. (2001). Chinese art and culture. New York: Harry N. Abrams.

Recommended Reading

  • Emmanuel, S. M. (Ed.). (2013). A companion to Buddhist philosophy. Wiley online library. Ebook library. [Access through HKU library electronic resources.] [A good book with many issues introduced and discussed for beginners of Buddhist Studies.]
  • Guang, X. (2008). A study of the Apocryphal Sutra: Fumu Enzhong Jing. International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture, 11, 105-146.
  • Kieschnick, J. (2003). The impact of Buddhism on Chinese material culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Wright, A. F. (1957). Buddhism and Chinese culture: Phases of interaction. The Journal ofAsian Studies, 17(1), 17-42.
  • Yü, C. -F. (2001). Kuan-yin: The Chinese transformation of Avalokiteśvara. New York: Columbia University Press.

Recommended Websites

Dictionaries

Encyclopedia

  • Buswell, R. E., Jr. (Ed.). (2003). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York: Macmillan Reference USA. [Electronic resource]
  • Jones, L. (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of religion (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. [Electronic resource]

Journals

Website Resources


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr X. Guang
Centre of Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 5040
Email: guangxin@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr X. Guang
Centre of Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 5040
Email: guangxin@hku.hk