Recently, the Department of Languages and Cultures with the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Ghent University has joined a large multidisciplinary project on East Asian religions (for a short abstract, see below). Ghent University has been one of the co-applicants of this project initiated and headed by Prof. Chen Jinhua from the University of British Columbia, Canada. The project is funded over a period of seven years by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as well as by several other co-sponsors.
Researchers of the Department of Languages and Cultures are directly involved in the research activities (mainly consisting of field visits in China and other East Asian countries, in addition to a large database project which collects and publishes the results from the field visits). Prof. Ann Heirman is also functioning as member of the Central Steering Committee (CSC), and Prof. Christoph Anderl is co-investigator and leading one of the 15 research clusters: Typologies of Text and Image Relations (cliffs/caves). As a special feature of the project, all research activities during the field visits will be conducted together with accompanying graduate / Ph.D. students.
For detailed information on the project, please see here.
For a passage from the project description, see below:
"As the global importance of East Asia (EA) grows and its cultural identities are asserted ever more strongly, scholars in many fields are recognizing the vital importance of studying EA religions. Distinctive styles of religiosity, ecclesiastical organization, and moral suasion shape all EA societies, even those in which the state has formally renounced religion. Encouraged by the discovery of new texts, artefacts, and increased opportunities for ethnographic fieldwork, the past decade of scholarship has contributed much to our understanding of both historical and contemporary religious phenomena. Technological advances have, during the same period, allowed specialists to make material accessible in ways hitherto unimaginable. Despite these achievements, however, the study of EA religions remains hindered by, on the one hand, the continued privileging of materials deemed to be canonical and, on the other hand, artificial boundaries imposed by geographical borders and academic disciplines. Numerous texts and images, for example, which have played pivotal roles within EA religious discourse—past and present—but were never canonized by religious authorities, remain unstudied or understudied, while connections between artefacts and documents remain hidden from view because scholars trained in separate disciplines study them in relative isolation and at a distance from the complex and multilayered contexts of their creation and use.
This partnership grant research program seeks to overcome these obstacles by bringing together scholars and sources that have rarely, if ever, been in progressive dialogue. Over a seven-year period, our international team will survey key sites of religious practice and strategic nodes in the dissemination and preservation of religious knowledge in EA. While taking stock of ongoing ethnological and sociological research concerning living religions in several EA societies, our focus is on the long-term production and transmission of religious knowledge, based on the pivotal observation that many ancient texts written in Chinese characters (in various languages) continue to be studied and utilized today.Our principal aim is to create a forum for indisputably collaborative and interdisciplinary analysis of textual and visual sources, non-canonical and canonical alike, which were not only integral to pre-modern religious people across EA but also continue to be read and put into practice by present-day Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese communities within EA and overseas. Accessing, recording, and interpreting this material requires a worldwide network of institutions and scholars, each contributing different skills and resources, with a robust infrastructure for online storage and dissemination of the results of our research. The insights we produce and publish based on the project promise to fundamentally change what we know about EA religions and how we know it, from the ground up."