Arriving from UC Berkeley, Dr. Kaiqi Hua will be teaching ASIA 301: Buddhism in the Modern Era in Term 1 as one of our new Postdocs specializing in Buddhist studies.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you became interested in Asian Studies?
I received my Ph.D. in World Cultures, an interdisciplinary program, at UC Merced, and currently conduct research at UC Berkeley. I grew up near West Lake, in Hangzhou (China’s most beautiful city), which was a Buddhist center for a thousand years and the capital of the Song dynasty before the Mongol’s conquest. I have been interested in Chinese history, the history of intercultural exchange and the relationship between Chinese and foreigners through religious connections for quite some time.
I am multi-lingual, and have extensive travel experience, including East Asia, the Middle East, America and the Pacific islands. If you are interested, you can read this interview where I shared how my research has allowed to me travel the world.
Finally, an interesting connection is that my advisor, Prof. Ruth Mostern’s uncle, Leon Zolbrod (1930-1991), was the pioneer in Japanese studies at UBC’s Department of Asian Studies.
Could you explain to a non-expert what you are researching?
I am a historian of religion and society during the 13th and 14th centuries in Mongol Eurasia and Chinese Inner Asia’s states including the Mongol Yuan and the Tangut Xi Xia.
Regarding history, I focus on the Mongol Empire (13-14th centuries), especially the Yuan dynasty in China (1271-1368), the history of Tangut people and the diaspora from the Xi Xia Kingdom (1038-1227), and the history of the Silk Road (which connected East Asia and Inner Asia).
Regarding Buddhism, I focus on unorthodox Buddhist movements and heretic sects, and Buddhist book printing.
I am also interested in digital humanities, especially historical databases and digital maps.
Is there a project that you are most proud of?
My dissertation, which is titled “The White Cloud movement: Local activism and Buddhism printing in China under Mongol Rule (1276-1368)”. It focuses on a unique Chinese lay Buddhist movement (the so-called “White Cloud sect”), its Buddhist canon printing industry, and the relationships between the Mongol colonial regime, Chinese local lay activists, and Tangut diaspora monks, in imperial China’s most developed Jiangnan region. It explores the very first interactions and collaborations between Chinese local lay Buddhists with immigrated Central Asian Buddhist monks, including Tanguts and Tibetans. I examine the Mongol government’s various support of this unorthodox religious group, and the institutionalization of religious communities. It is the first comprehensive study of the White Cloud movement, and its historical significance. I found out the dominant position of highly urbanized rural market towns in the Jiangnan region, rather than political centers (i.e. big cities), were the home to most White Cloud sect followers and Buddhist canon’s local patrons. Dense canal networks formed this distribution which connects the market towns by waterways/canals. It is also the first study of the White Cloud sect printed Puning canon and its relations to the Tangut script Hexi canon. For the Tangut canon, I have used the extinct Tangut language/characters, and decipher Tangut materials. This helps my postdoctoral research on Tangut Diasporas and Buddhist canon, as well as the connection between Tangut Buddhism, with other traditions of Buddhism including Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Jurchen, and Khitan.
We are really excited to have you at UBC. Where are you coming from and is there anything that you are particularly excited about in regards to coming to UBC or to Vancouver?
There are many things I want to do and people I want to meet. I made a small list:
1. Prof. Tim Brook’s 1993 book on local elites’ Buddhist patronage in the Ming dynasty inspired my dissertation research on a similar phenomenon in the Yuan dynasty.
2. Working together with scholars in Buddhist Studies, including Prof. Jinhua Chen and Prof. Jessica Main, and getting involved in events and conferences at the “Buddhism and Contemporary Society” program.
3. The DRH (Database of Religious History) project with Prof. Ted Slingerland.
4. The newly expanding Religious Studies program, and the possible reopening of the major.
5. To expand Inner Asian studies at UBC with Prof. Tsering Shakya, I hope one day there will be a Center for Inner Asian Research (“CIAR”) at the Institute of Asian Research. Just my dream 🙂
6. More scholars I am interested in their researches, namely Ross King, Chris Rea, Bruce Rusk and Carla Nappi…
7. Newly discovered Chinese rare books at the library, and the CLIR Chinese cataloging project collaborated by UBC and UW.
8. I will stay at St. John’s College and am really looking forward to joining the community and having international intercultural exchanges! (Currently I am living at the International House in UC Berkeley, a similar atmosphere with a small global community)!
What will you be teaching at UBC and why should students be excited?
I will teach ASIA 301 Buddhism in the Modern Era in the 2016 fall term and ASIA 303 Mahāyāna Buddhism from India to East Asia in the 2017 spring term.
Students can look forward to having many new courses in Buddhist studies being approved. It is a very exciting time!
Regarding my lectures, my interests and personal experience of different religions, will allow me to tell intriguing stories and I look forward to using engaging multimedia to improve my lectures.