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The Ultimate Concern: Death and Afterlife

Guangzhou, China, June 8-10, 2018

Woodenfish Foundation Conference

Ultimate Concern:  Death and Afterlife

Top-notch scholars from around the world will gather to explore the most profound of questions shared by people throughout time and across cultures:  the philosophical, practical and ritual concerns of human existence, death, and afterlife.  The primary focus of this conference is on the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist traditions, but selected other cultural traditions will be discussed. 

Ultimate Concern: Death and Afterlife will be held in Guangzhou, China, Thursday, June 7 through Sunday, June 10, 2018.  Conference proceedings will be in English.  Simultaneous interpretation will be available in Chinese.

Ultimate Concern: Death and Afterlife will investigate questions such as: What is the nature of human existence?  Is death inevitable?  If so, how does the fact of death’s inevitability affect the way one lives one’s life?  What distinguishing characteristics adhere to the concept of death in different cultures?  How are these expressed in cultural beliefs and ritual practices related to death?  What does it mean to die?  Is death actually the end of life?  If so, how does one reconcile one’s mortality with the inevitability of such finality?  If not, what comes after death?  Is there an intermediate state?  Is there an afterlife?  Does one move into a new life form?  Is there reincarnation?  Is there rebirth in a Pure Land?  Will one become extinct and enter nirvana? 

In order to explore the practical application of such philosophical constructs in Buddhism and other traditions, scholars will divide into panels focused on death and reincarnation; deathbed ritual practices; funerary rites past and present; mechanisms for grieving; souls and salvation; representations in art, architecture, literature; and politics past and present.

Please join us on this exploration.

History of Woodenfish Foundation

Woodenfish Foundation ( history) began in 2002 at Fo Guang Shan Monastery as the "Woodenfish Project" to allow students from around the world to experience authentic  Humanistic Buddhism for one month each summer within a monastic context. In the past 15 years, together with my team and alumni of Woodenfish programs, we have expanded programming in the United States and all throughout China. Between 2009 and 2017, Woodenfish ran 20 programs in China. In 2016, Woodenfish Foundation received Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Please email for more information.


Mark Blum, UC Berkeley

Ernest (Billy) Brewster, Harvard University

Jacqueline Stone, Princeton University

Jessey Choo, Rutgers University

Miriam Chusid, Columbia University

Hank Glassman, Haverford College

Marleen Kassel, City University of New York

Sangyop Lee, Stanford University

Max Moerman, Barnard College

Ng Zhiru, Pamona College

Halle O'Neal, University of Edinburgh

Komei Sakai, Columbia University

Mariko Namba Walter, ACANSRS

Venerable Ashin Sumanacara, Mahidol University

Bryan Lowe, Vanderbilt University

Masahiro Morioka, Waseda University  

Adriana Proser, Asia Society, New York

Pamela Winfield, Elon University

Xingyi Wang, Harvard University

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