Religions of the East [CRN 81228]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Hua
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1400
End: 1520
Field Work: Day 6 | November 29, 2018 | China
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course focuses on the history of religions in the Asian world, including East, Southeast and South Asia, from ancient to modern eras. We will study major religious traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Shintoism. We will also conduct case studies of various religious schools and movements. This course emphasizes the geopolitical and social impact of religious individuals, communities, institutions, and activities upon different cultures. We will examine the development of religious ideology, doctrines, ethics, literature, and ritual practice. Our class aims to better understand the interactions between different religious traditions in a broader socio-political context, by crossing both spatial and social boundaries. We will use multiple academic approaches to understand these religious traditions, by reading primary sources, analyzing religious texts, and examining popular practices. The course will survey and discuss the key issues, texts, images, ideas, figures, practices, institutions, and popular deities that continue to shape religious landscape in the East.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 6
Date: November 29, 2018

Spend a day in Shanghai, explore the religious part of this modern metropolis. Students will visit past and present religious sites and local museums. In the morning, we will first go to two major Buddhist temples, including Jing’an Temple of esoteric Buddhism and Longhua Temple of Mahayana Buddhism. Students will witness incense burning worshippers and inspect the different architectural styles of these two compounds. Then we will visit the City God Temple (“Chenghuang miao”) where hosts gods of both Taoism and local popular religions. While on site, we will discuss the hierarchy of Gods in East religious religions, and the cultural origins of different deities. We will also stroll around the temple to visit the surrounding market and collect religious objects. After lunch at the temple market, we will visit the Shanghai Museum, and learn about the history of different religions in Shanghai in the past. Then we will go to St. Ignatius Cathedral, one of the earliest Catholic church in China, to learn the history of Jesuits and Christianity in East Asia. Afterwards, we will proceed to Ohel Moshe Synagogue and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Students will learn the unique history of Jewish diaspora in the East.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will have a comprehensive picture of different religions in East Asia in the past and present;
  2. To analyze the challenges and opportunities religions faced amid rapid economic growth and urbanization in China;
  3. To participate in activities in the religious sites, experience temple markets, and collect materials. Will form a better understanding of the relationship between religious doctrine, rituals, and material culture in East Asia;
  4. To scrutinize the phenomenon of religious syncretism which has long been embedded in Chinese society: that different religions share similar symbols, teachings, rituals, or even sites with mutual influence.