Images, Relics, and Legends

International Conference

 Images, Relics and Legends: 

Formation and Transformation of Buddhist Sacred Sites

 October 15-16, 2004

                                The Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

The conference aims at both a broad survey and in-depth investigation of the formation and transformation of a selected group of Buddhist (and with some exceptions, non-Buddhist, for the purposes of comparative studies) sacred sites. The conference will place particular emphasis on Chinese Buddhism. However, given Chinese Buddhism’s origin in India and its spread to other parts of East Asia (particularly Korea and Japan), it is equally important to enroll specialists of various Buddhist traditions (Indian, Tibetan, Korean and Japanese) in order to understand the ways the Chinese material was both influenced by and influenced other areas.
The participants in this conference will approach the topic of Chinese Buddhist sacred sites informed by new research that takes into account many of the previously neglected issues highlighted in the earlier discussion. The three main foci that will organize these papers will include attention to 1) the ways legends and local histories represent the perceived sacrality of a site, and the role that 2) relics and 3) images (including paintings and statues) played in creating, recreating and sustaining the Buddhist sites under investigation.
The issue of Buddhist sacred sites presents fascinating possibilities to integrate the study of images, relics and their veneration with that of the writing and rewriting of religious legends, to the benefit of scholars interested in these different disciplines. We may recast the situation as a dynamic combination of religious images and legends, envisaged here as an important form of sacred space and scared time respectively, on the ground of Buddhist sacred sites, a sacred entity that was held as both being sanctified by and identified with the Buddhist relics. This conference will be truly interdisciplinary, bringing together scholars of religious history and religious practice, art historians, and those interested in politics, international diplomacy and trade. It aims to stimulate new directions of research in the history of Chinese Buddhism. The papers from this conference will be solicited for a major edited volume on sacred sites in Chinese Buddhism which will be submitted to a North American scholarly press for publication. The volume will be a significant contribution to Chinese studies in English.

List of conference participants (Buddhist Sacred Sites, UBC, Oct. 2004)


1. Prof. Barrett, Tim [] (SOAS, London University)
2. Prof. Benn, James [] (State University of Arizona)
3. Prof. Birnbaum, Raoul [] (UC, Santa Cruz)
4. Prof. Chen, Jinhua [] (UBC)
5. Prof. Cho, Eunsu [] (University of Michigan)
6. Prof. Funayama, Toru [] (Kyoto University)
7. Prof. Gimello, Robert [] (Harvard)
8. Prof. Granoff, Phyllis [] (Yale)
9. Prof. Groner, Paul [] (University of Virginia)
10. Prof. Robson, James [] (University of Michigan)
11. Prof. Rospatt, Alexander v. [] (Berkeley)
12. Prof. Schaeffer, Curtis [] (University of Alabama)
13. Prof. Sharf, Robert [rsharf@socrates.Berkeley.EDU] (Berkeley)
14. Prof. Shinohara, Koichi [] (Yale)
15. Prof. Wang, Eugene [] (Harvard)
16. Dr. Wang Song, (Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences)
17. Zhuang Kun-mu (Rev. Ta-t’ien) (Ph. D candidate at University of Tokyo), Dharmasena []


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