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2014 Buddhism in China-- Connecting with the Source: Tiantai Study


Program Information


Tiantai Study with Professor Daniel B. Stevenson at Mt. Tiantai


The Woodenfish “Buddhism in China—Connecting with the Source Program” is a semi-annual program, sponsored by the Woodenfish Foundation, that offers faculty, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates opportunities for direct and intensive engagement with important historical centers of Chinese Buddhism and culture.


Previous programs have included a Platform Sutra Seminar in Nanhua Temple led by Peter Gregory (Smith College), a Guanyin Seminar on Mt. Putuo by Chün-fang Yü (Columbia University) and Bhikkhuni Vinaya Seminar by Ann Heirman (Ghent University) at Sichuan Nuns College. 


Program Duration

Dates: August 4 to 13, 2014



Huading Temple at Mount Tiantai Summit. See the website in Chinese or in English.



Faculty, graduate level and advanced undergraduate students.


Tiantai Seminar Description

Along with the Chan and Huayan schools, the Tiantai tradition represents one of the most influential syntheses of Buddhist teaching to take shape in China and East Asia. Systematized during the latter half of the sixth century by the Chinese monk Zhiyi (538-597)—who taught on the very mountain where this seminar will be held—Tiantai teaching has been an enduring presence on the landscape of Buddhist thought and practice in China down to contemporary times. Its impress remains readily visible in traditions of doctrinal learning and scriptural exegesis, meditation, and devotion practices that prevail in Chinese Buddhist circles today. In the centuries following Zhiyi, the tradition also found its way to Japan (Tendai) and Korea (Ch’ŏntae), where its impact has been no less profound.


Likened to two wings of a bird or two wheels of a cart, Tiantai tradition espouses the coordinate cultivation of meditative discipline (jiaoguan shuangxiu 教觀雙修) and doctrinal study grounded in the sutras. Through these twin pursuits, Tiantai practitioners aspired to replicate the path by which the founding patriarchs were said to have apprehended the original vision of the Buddha and set themselves and others on the path to future Buddhahood. Drawing on a combination of secondary readings and primary texts, this seminar will explore fundamental aspects of Tiantai doctrinal classification, scriptural exegesis, meditation, ritual practice, hagiography and historical imaginaire. Where relevant, we will also give attention to change and diversity within the tradition.


To reside on the mountain where the Tiantai tradition took shape provides us with the rarest of opportunities. Surrounded by the very settings where illustrious Tiantai masters taught and practiced over ages past, classroom discussion will be supplemented with fieldtrips to sites of special interest. With a monastic community directly at hand, we will also have frequent chance to reflect on the ways in which doctrinal study and meditative disciplines were woven into the regimens of Tiantai institutions and the lives of their residents and patrons.


Biography of Instructor


Daniel B. Stevenson joined the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in 1992, where he has served as Chair since 2007. He received his doctorate in Buddhist studies and Chinese religions from the Department of Religion, Columbia University, in 1997. His research has focused on the ritual, exegetical and institutional cultures of the Tiantai and Pure Land traditions in China, with his most recent work centered on the vibrant revival of Tiantai Buddhist thought and practice in Song Dynasty (960-1279) China. Prior publications include The Great Calming and Contemplation, a Translation and Annotated Study of the Synopsis Chapter of Chih-I’s Mo-he chih-kuan (with Neal Donner), The Meaning of the Lotus Sūtra’s Course of Ease and Bliss: An Annotated Translation and Study of Nanyue Huisi’s (515-577) Fahuajing anlexing yi (with Hiroshi Kanno), and numerous articles on Tiantai ritual literature and practice, Lotus Sūtra and Pure Land devotional culture, and Buddhist ritual in Song Dynasty China. He is currently nearing completion a book manuscript that examines how site-specific venues of institutional life, education, ritual performance, and narrative exchange contributed to the formation of collective religious discourses among Song-dynasty Buddhists.



August 4 Arrival (latest arrival by noon august 5th)

August 6-12 Classes and discussion on Tiantai Study and Monastic Life Practicum

August 13 Departure



Accepted applicants must provide their own transportation to and from Mount. Tiantai, Zhejiang, China as well as $100 (USD) to be used for the purchase of uniforms and a set of monastic bowls. There are no additional costs for the workshop. Room and board, and tuition will be covered by the Woodenfish scholarship for all selected participants.


About the Application

The Tiantai workshop accepts applications from faculty, graduate level, advanced undergraduate students, monastics, as well as those who have already completed their degrees from any country. Buddhist nuns and female priests from any Buddhist tradition are especially encouraged to apply. Applicants from diverse academic disciplines are encouraged to apply with preference given to those in the fields of East Asian and Buddhist Studies. Applications will be reviewed by a committee including Buddhist clergy, and scholars. Approximately 40 applicants will be offered admission to this program.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and decisions will be made within two weeks after submission. Selection is quite competitive; applicants are encouraged to apply early to ensure a better chance of admission into the workshop.

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