UBC leads global Buddhism research network after receiving $4.9 million donation

With a $4.9 million donation from the Liuzu Temple of Chan Buddhism in China, UBC is now leading a long-term international network to advance the study of Buddhism and East Asian cultures.

Other universities in the partnership include UC Berkeley, Harvard University, Ghent University, McMaster University and Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO). Three institutes that are already funded by the Liuzu Temple – the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat Sen University and Peking University — are also affiliated.

Named after the late Venerable Tianzhu, a distinguished Chan monk and abbot of the Liuzu Temple, the Tianzhu Global Network for the Study of Buddhist Cultures serves as a global platform on which Buddhist researchers can exchange their findings and expand discussion. Currently, the project has a five-year term on its funding, but it could be renewed for the another five years.

This $4.9 million donation also complements a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to support the From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions project, an existing initiative that similarly aims to promote research collaboration in the field of Buddhism studies.

Asian studies Professor Jinhua Chen, who is also the network’s chief coordinator, expects that these partnerships would help researchers overcome the hurdle of distance in Asian studies research. He also believes that UBC’s leadership role in the network would help the university extend its global outreach and attract emerging Buddhist scholars.

“We hope that by working with our colleagues in these universities, we will be able to maximize the use of our resources available to us because in social sciences and humanities, we are always underfunded,” said Chen.

“So by building this network, we can share in the resources, we can help each other and we will also be able to help our students to communicate with their peers at different universities.”

More concretely, the fund will help each of the partner universities host a series of major international conferences focusing on Buddhism.

At UBC, there will be annual Buddhist cultural festival over the gift’s five-year period. There will also be smaller initiatives, such as a lecture series on Buddhist cultures, graduate student fellowships and exchanges, visiting professorships, international conferences, a book series, and a research award on Chan Buddhism.

“We [are] confidence that it will [take] Buddhist studies to another level and so globally,” said Chen.