Buddhist Rulers and Rulers of Buddhists: Buddhist Relic Veneration in Medieval China

UBC Tzu-chi Buddhist Studies Forum and TLKY program on Buddhism and Modern Society invite you for a talk given by Professor Albert Welter 

On January 24 (Thursday)
5-6:30pm
Asian Center 604

During the Five Dynasties (10th Century), the principality of Wuyue 吳越國 distinguished itself through its peace and prosperity, and its self-avowed identity as a Buddhist kingdom.Wuyue rulers styled themselves as Buddhist monarchs modeled on the role the Indian King Aśoka played in supporting and spreading Buddhism throughout his kingdom. The stūpa allegedly housing relics of Śākyamuni at Mt. Ayuwang 阿育王山(Aśoka) in Mingzhou 明州 served as a focal point of the Aśoka cult in Wuyue. In addition to examining the nature of Aśoka emulation in Wuyue, the presentation follows the attempt to transplant relics from the stūpa at Mt. Ayuwang to a temple at the Song court when Wuyue was reintegrated into the growing Song sphere of influence. This attempt is symbolic of the new realities facing Buddhism in the Song context, and stands in marked contrast to the favoured treatment of Buddhism in Wuyue.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Dr. Albert Welter became interested in Chinese language and culture, earning his PhD in 1986 in Asian Religions from McMaster University, Department of Religions Studies, with an emphasis on the study of Chinese Buddhist texts. As part of his dissertation research, he studied at Komazawa University in Tokyo, and was one of McMaster University’s first exchange students with Fudan University in Shanghai. Since graduation, Dr. Welter has established a reputation as a leading expert in the academic study of Chan (Zen) Buddhist texts and Chinese Buddhism during the transition from the Tang (late medieval) to the Song (early modern) dynasties (9th-11th centuries). While popular images of Zen and Buddhism emphasize exotic ideas and eccentric characteristics, Dr. Welter interprets these as textual representations embedded in a particular East Asian intellectual and cultural context. He has given lectures and presentations at leading universities in Asia (eg., University of Tokyo, Beijing University, Hong Kong University), Europe (eg., University of Oslo, Bonn University, University of Lund), and North America (eg., UC Berkeley, University of Florida). His research has been supported since 1999 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). In 2006-07, he was awarded a China-Canada Scholars’ Exchange grant, and was a Visiting Professor at Renmin University in Beijing. In 2009, he sponsored a workshop, “Exploring Diversity: Human Rights in China,” and in 2010, he initiated the University’s East Asian Language and Culture program (EALC). Nominated for both University of Winnipeg teaching and research awards, Dr. Welter exemplifies how the two complement each other.

His major publications include: The Linji lu and the Creation of Chan Orthodoxy and Monks, Rulers, and Literati Oxford University Press, both from Oxford University Press, in 2008 and 2006 respectively.