Confucianism is typically regarded as a system of personal and
social ethics, but some (such as Herbert Fingarette in Confucius: The
Secular as Sacred) maintain that it is also a profoundly religious
tradition. Explore the religious dimensions of Confucianism and explain its
contributions to the history of religion in China, East Asia, and/or the world.
Both the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi have
complicated textual histories, involving multiple authors and significantly different
versions of the text. Explore the evolution of one of these texts and explain
its overall significance with regard to the Chinese intellectual tradition.
Discuss at least three Daoist solutions to the problem of
sociopolitical discord as presented in texts and/or traditions such as the Daodejing,
the Zhuangzi, Huang-Lao, and Organized Daoism (a.k.a. Religious Daoism).
The “School of Legalism” (Fajia) was so damaged by the
supposed harshness of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) that few in post-Qin China
self-identified as a Legalist, though it did continue to exert a tremendous
influence on China (and by extension Korea and Japan) for the next two
millennia, up to and including the present. Explore the Legalist influences on either
pre-modern or modern East Asian civilization.
The transmission of Buddhism from India to East Asia involved
both a “Buddhist transformation of East Asia” and an “East Asian transformation
of Buddhism.” Explore a particular aspect of this transformation by focusing on
one of the following topics:
● the impact of Confucianism
and/or Daoism on the development of Chinese Buddhism
● the impact of Buddhism on the
evolution of Confucianism or Daoism
● the creation of a
distinctly Chinese form of Buddhism, such as Huayan, Tiantai, Chan or Pure Land
● the synthesis of the Chan
and Pure Land traditions over the past millennium
● the history behind the myth
of Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of the Chan tradition
● the transmission of Chinese
Buddhism to Korea, Japan and/or Vietnam
Discuss the historical relationship between Confucianism, Daoism
and Buddhism. Should these traditions be considered fundamentally distinct, or do
they function as three essential perspectives on the Chinese conception of “truth”
or “reality” that cannot be adequately expressed by any one of the three
traditions on its own?
Who were the “Syncretists” and how did their cosmology provide a
foundation for the “syncretic” approach to Chinese thought suggested in the
Explore the historical conditions that led to the development of
Neo-Confucianism during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Discuss the impact of Zhu
Xi’s Neo-Confucianism on China’s civil service examination, its sociopolitical
system, and/or the Confucian culture of the literati class.
How did Zhu Xi’s establishment of “orthodox” Confucianism in the
previous question lead to Wang Yangming’s reconceptualization of the
relationship between knowledge and action? Which, if either, do you feel
captures the spirit of Mencius’ theory of human nature?