top of page

2015 Buddhism in China-- Connecting with

the Source: Nirvana Sutra and Dunhuang


Program Information


June 7th to 17th, 2015


Renowned professor scholar Mark Blum from UC Berkeley will join us in Kumarājīva Temple (鳩摩羅什寺) in Wuwei (武威), Gansu (甘肅) to lecture on the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. The sutra was translated in Wuwei in the 5th century. 


Our stay in Wuwei will be followed by a trip to Dunhuang (敦煌) where in addition to visitng the Mogao caves we will meet with the president of the Dunhuang Research Institute (敦煌研究院) and visit other important sites in the vicinity.


Section One: Nirvana Sutra

The section will focus primarily on the material contained in volume 1 of Mark Blum’s translation of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. (大般涅槃經, The Nirvana Sutra Vol. 1. Berkeley: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai America, Inc. 2013) This material covers the first ten of forty fasciles of the Dharmakṣema translation (T.374). The lectures will cover a variety of topics related to the Sūtra, including its name and setting, its relationship to Buddhism as a whole and to the Mahāyāna movement, and the doctrine of buddha-nature, tathāgatagarbha, icchantika and vegetarianism. 


A syllabus and suggested preparatory readings will be provided to successful applicants.


Biography of Instructor 

Mark L. Blum took his degree in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley where he is currently Professor of Buddhist Studies and also Shinjo Ito Distinguished Professor of Japanese Studies. He is the translator of The Nirvana Sutra Volume 1 from the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, and is currently working on the remaining three volumes of the sutra. He is also author of Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism (2002) and coeditor of Rennyo and the Roots of Modern Japanese Buddhism (2005), both from Oxford University Press, and co-editor of Cultivating Spirituality: A Modern Shin Buddhist Anthology from SUNY Press, and numerous articles. His research interests generally focus on changes in Buddhist thought and ritual in East Asia, particularly in the areas of tathāgatagarbha, Pure Land Buddhism, conceptions of death, ethics, and the impact of modernity on Buddhism in Asia. He is currently writing a history of nianfo/nenbutsu that will include discussion of its use in music, dance, poetry, and theatre. He is also translating the Shandao commentary on the Guanwuliangshou jing and the Japanese language writings of Hōnen. 


Section Two: Dunhuang

This section will consist of a research trip to the oasis town of Dunhuang, best known for the remarkable Mogao caves, a treasure-trove of Buddhist art and the site of one of the 20th century’s most important archeological discoveries, the Dunhuang manuscript. 


The trip includes:

  • Extended visit to the Mogao caves, a major site of Buddhist art in China and the world.

  • Meeting with the president of the Dunhuang Research Institute

  • Learn about the history of and current research on Dunhuang

  • Visit the Han dynasty outposts of Yangguan and Yumenguan

  • Experience Yardang National Geopark



June 7th. Arrival. Meeting in the evening

June 8th - 12th mid-day. Lectues on the Nirvana Sutra with Mark Blum

June 12th evening. Night train to Dunhuang

June 13th - 16th. Visit to the grottoes, Dunhuang academy and other sights in the vicinity

June 17th. Departure.


Optional program

We will visit Binglingsi 炳灵寺 close to Lanzhou on the 6th of June as an optional trip. All our participants are welcome to join. We will meet in Lanzhou on the evening of the 5th and then travel to Wuwei together on the 7th.



Following the tradition of the Woodenfish Project, the section on the Nirvana Sutra will be free of charge. The second part costs $1200 USD and will cover transportation, accommodation, entrance fees and most meals. Neither the Woodenfish Foundation nor the Liangyou Institute will profit from this. The participant can choose to only join one of the sections.


Our partner

Woodenfish Foundation's program, Buddhism in China 2015 is organized in cooperation with Liangyou Institute (良友書院), a non-profit organization based in Beijing. Established in 2013, Liangyou Institute aims to continue the traditional academy-style education in a modern urban setting, providing lectures and workshops with prominent academics and artist. They maintain the study of the six classical arts: Rites (禮), Music (樂), Archery (射), Charioteering (禦), Calligraphy (書) and Mathematics (數). The director of Liangyou Institute, Mr. Meng Fanjia (孟繁佳), is the 74th generation descendent of Mencius and head of the Mencius Clan Association of China. 

bottom of page