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Buddhism and Religion in Medieval China, Japan and Tibet

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Directors : Matthew Kapstein (EPHE), Christine Mollier (CNRS)
Permanent Members : Jean-Luc ACHARD (CNRS), Frédéric GIRARD (EFEO), Sylvie HUREAU (EPHE), Matthew KAPSTEIN (EPHE), Simone MAUCLAIRE (CNRS), Christine MOLLIER (CNRS), Jean-Noël ROBERT (Collège de France/ EPHE), Alain ROCHER (EPHE)

Collaborators : Robert CAMPANY (Vanderbilt University), Joshua CAPITANIO (University of the West, California), Paul COPP (University of Chicago), Bryan J. CUEVAS (University of Florida), HSIEH Shuwei (National Chengchi University, Taiwan), IYANAGA Nobumi (Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient, Tokyo), Max MOERMANN (Barnard College, New York), Giacomella OROFINO (Instituto Orientale, Naples), Fabio RAMBELLI (Univ. California- Santa Barbara), James ROBSON (Harvard), Donatella ROSSI (University of Rome), Dominic STEAVU (University of California-Santa Barbara).

The unifying theme of this project is Buddhism’s relationship with the major ‘indigenous’ religions of China, Japan and Tibet. The emergence and development of Taoism, Shintoism and Bon were indeed conditioned in their respective environments by contact with Buddhism, which, as a foreign religion originating in India, took on different forms in each of these three civilizations. This has, of course, been the object of numerous studies but these have always been confined to specific cultural contexts. Our present project focuses upon the interaction between Buddhism and these medieval religious traditions from a cross-cultural and comparative perspective in order to shed new light on the question of interreligious dynamics and to place them within a global theoretical framework. The first phase of the program focuses on a fundamental theme for historians of Asian religions : the development and function of sacred language and scriptures. Three international meetings on this theme were organized in 2011 : one as part of the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), the second at the International Association for Buddhist Studies (IABS) seminar held in Taiwan, and the third as a workshop at the Maison de l’Asie in Paris (CRCAO/EPHE). These three sessions brought together some twenty participants from Europe, Asia and the United States, whose contributions focused on the nature, development and diffusion of sacred texts and canons.

Over the next five years (2014-2018), a second phase of the project will be devoted to ritual practices (including worship, recitation and copying) related to sacred texts, talismans and dhāraṇī in the three cultural areas concerned. This will allow us to examine the relationships between orality, writing and image, and to reflect together on how Buddhism contributed to the transformation of their performative value within local religious traditions.