East Asian Buddhist Thought

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

This is a thematic course on one aspect of the Buddhist tradition in East Asia, mainly China and Japan. The subject of the course may be different every year.

The first topic to be analysed will be the esoteric tradition (mi-jao/mikkyo). In the following years other major systems of Buddhist thought, such as the Tiantai/Tendai and the Pure Land traditions, will be explored. The course will address the history of the selected tradition, its specific doctrinal tenets, its textual corpus and its major deities, and the forms of worship that characterize it.

Attention will be devoted to the influence that the selected form of Buddhism exerted in the formation of the culture of China and Japan (with more emphasis given to Japan). A critical appraisal of the way in which the specific tradition has been studied, in East Asia and in the West, will also be offered.

Considering the importance of East-Asian forms of Buddhism within the broader ‘Buddhist tradition’, and the importance of Buddhism in the cultures of China and Japan, this course will be a of great significance for the training of students in Buddhist Studies, Chinese and Religions, Art, and Area Studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes

This course aims to explore one tradition of Buddhist thought in its East-Asian development. At the end of the course the student should be able to:

  • account for the characteristics of that tradition
  • examine in depth one aspects of that tradition
  • critically evaluate the role of that tradition in the broader context of the cultures in which it developed, mainly China and Japan
  • assess the way in which that tradition has been studied and presented, in East Asia and in the West

Together with these subject-specific learning outcomes, the course will contribute to the achievement of:

  • informed examination of a historical tradition
  • critical analysis of competing interpretative frameworks
  • general transferable skills such as the ability to synthesise information from a range of sources, make judgments based on appropriate evidence and communicate ideas


1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar each week.

Method of assessment

One 3000 word essay (worth 80%); one class presentation (worth 10%); one participation in class presentation (worth 10%).



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.