By Shyamal Sinha
The Liuzu Temple is based in the Guangdong province of China. The elder monk Ven. Tianzhu was an eminent Chan monk who was the abbot of the Liuzu Temple and who over the course of ninety years, worked tirelessly to promote benevolence and compassion across Chinese society through various Buddhist activities.
The University of California, Berkeley, the University of British Columbia, Harvard University, and McMaster University announced this month that they will each receive funding from a newly developed grant from Liuzu Temple, a Chan Buddhist temple in China’s Guangdong Province. The US$4.9 million grant, which founds the Tianzhu Global Network for the Study of Buddhist Cultures, was awarded to an international partnership of universities, which also includes Ghent University in Belgium and the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO) in France. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat Sen University, and Peking University, all recipients of funding from Liuzu Temple, will also act as partners with the Tianzhu Global Network.
“The network is named after the late Venerable Tianzhu, an eminent Chan monk and former abbot of Liuzu Temple who worked tirelessly over his 90 years to promote benevolence and compassion across Chinese society through Buddhism. In 2013, Liuzu Temple created the Tianzhu Foundation, a charitable group made up of volunteers whose goal is to carry out activities related to culture, society, spirituality, and wisdom.” (Ghent University)
The US$4.9 million grant project will be led by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver and will focus on Buddhism and East Asian cultures. Each of the partner universities will receive US$105,250 per year to advance their research in this area and to host an international conference on Buddhist culture during the five-year period of the gift. UBC, as the leader of the global network, will host a Buddhist cultural festival each year, a Buddhist studies week, and a lecture series on Buddhist studies in addition to their international conference.
“We are grateful to Liuzu Temple for this generous donation,” said Professor Santa J. Ono, president of UBC. “Academic partnerships like these create an opportunity to foster international collaboration between different disciplines around the study of Buddhism, and to place UBC at the forefront of scholarly exchange in religious study.” (UBC)
As part of the network, UC Berkeley will host an international conference on Buddhist philosophy this spring, as well as a week-long intensive workshop on early Chan Buddhist texts. In addition, UC Berkeley PhD students in Buddhist Studies will participate in summer field research projects in China, Korea, and Japan.
The Liuzu donation complements a US$2.5-million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to support a project called From the Ground Up: East Asian Religions through Multi-Media Sources and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, which began in 2016 and will continue until 2023. The project aims to build a public collection of religious materials, including texts, artifacts, photographs, and recordings at UBC to enhance public and scholarly understanding of Buddhism and East Asian cultures. (Ghent University)
“Research in this field has been hindered by distance and borders that make it difficult to share and disseminate new findings,” said Jinhua Chen, From the Ground Up principal investigator and professor in the UBC department of Asian studies. “Thanks to this support from Liuzu Temple and SSHRC, we have an opportunity to overcome disciplinary boundaries and advance knowledge of Buddhism and East Asian cultures—a vital step forward as the economic and political importance of this region surges.” (Ghent University)