Fiction in History and History in Fiction – By Professor Weirong Shen

UBC’s Tzu-chi Buddhist Studies Forum and IAR’s Contemporary Tibetan Studies Program are pleased to invite you to a public lecture by Professor Weirong Shen, Renmin University of China and Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.

March 4, 2013, 4:30 – 6:00pm
Venue: Room 604, Asian Center

Buddhist event


Fiction in History and History in Fiction: “The Secret Meditation of Supreme Bliss” Represented and Interpreted in various contexts of Religion and Literature

It is well-known that Tibetan tantric Buddhism was very popular at the Mongol court of Yuan. However, little details are exposed in contemporary literary works of Yuan. Some ambiguous descriptions of Tibetan tantric Buddhist practices seen in Yuanshi, the Official History of the Yuan, actually stemmed from Gengshen waishi, an unofficial history at the end of Yuan and the beginning of Ming, thus more fictional than factual. Unfortunately, these fictional descriptions became a kind of official version of Tibetan tantric Buddhism which has a great impact on the perception of Han Chinese literati on Tibetan Buddhist practices. During the Ming and Qing periods, the already distorted story was furthermore fictionalized and dramatized by Chinese erotic novelists. As the result, Tibetan tantric Buddhism is almost synonymous to the art of bedchamber or the game of bawdry. This lecture reveals the complex process of how the fictional story became the official history and how the history again was fictionalized through textual criticism. Prof. Shen tries to restore the historical fact based on the careful studies of the newly discovered Chinese translations of Tibetan tantric Buddhist texts from both the Tangut Xia and Mongol Yuan periods. It is also intended to interpret Tibetan tantric Buddhist practices, which is often represented by the so-called “the Secret Meditation of Supreme Bliss”, by putting it back into the context of Tibetan tantric Buddhism, and eventually to change the demonized and eroticized image of Tibetan tantric Buddhism in Chinese literature.

Prof. Weirong Shen received his Ph. D. in Language and Cultural Studies of Central Asia from Bonn University, Germany, and is professor of Tibetan and Buddhist history at Renmin University of China in Beijing, where he also serves as the Associate Director of Institute for Advanced Religious Studies. His primary interests include religious history of Tibetan, Mongols, Tangut, Uygur and Han Chinese during 11th to 15th centuries. His recent works have focused the history of Tibetan tantric Buddhism in Central Eurasiaand China Proper through textual criticism of multilingual manuscripts unearthed in Khara Khoto. He is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.