CCHU9075 Arts and Humanities
Buddhist Architecture: Monasteries in Cross-Cultural Developments


Course Description

The course introduces the knowledge of Buddhist architecture in China and Asia, looking into its physical and visual significance, as well as aesthetic idea and spatial practice. By studying selected examples of monastery, it reviews form and space, visual representation and meaning, artistic creation and garden making, ritual performance and spiritual aspiration. Exploring such a wide range of issues enables us to unfold the richness of Buddhist built environment. Taking both historical and cross-cultural perspectives, the course addresses these inquiries by investigating how architectural concepts are developed within and across Asia’s interconnected regions. Beyond chronological and thematic examinations of cave temples, pagodas, monasteries, gardens, sculptures, and paintings, the course also discusses the role of the Buddhist monastery as the living place of monastics, and in a broader context, the worship center, the secluded hermitage, and the contemplative landscape.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Analyze physical and visual forms of Buddhist architecture, articulate their meaning in relation to the tenets and traditions of Buddhism.
    2. Understand Buddhist architecture across diverse cultural interactions and historical ties between China and Asia’s interconnected regions.
    3. Demonstrate an awareness of how Buddhist architecture transformed in time, and explain the transformation within historical and religious contexts.
    4. Explore ways in which the knowledge of Buddhist architecture can benefit the contemporary practice of architectural and visual design.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 10
Reading / Self-study 20
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 30
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Essay and reports 30
Project presentation 20
In-class participation 20
Field trip report 10
In-class quizzes 20

Required Reading

  • Boyd, A. (1962). Religious and funerary buildings. Chinese Architecture and Town Planning 1500 B.C. – 1911 A.D. London: Alec Tiranti.
  • Fu, X. (2017). Early Buddhist architecture in China. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays. New Jersey: Princeton University Press..
  • Mitra, D. (1971). Buddhist monuments. Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad. [pp. 8–56]
  • Prip-Møller, J. (1937). Chinese Buddhist monasteries: Their plan and its functions as a setting for Buddhist monastic life. London: Oxford University Press. [Chaps. 1, 2 (pp. 1–195)]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor W.J. Wang
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 2548 1274
Email: wjwang@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor W.J. Wang
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 2548 1274
Email: wjwang@hku.hk
Dr Z. Xu
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 2859 2147
Email: zhuxu@hku.hk