Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Religious Harmony in China
Introduction

A survey of the major religions of China with a particular focus on self-cultivation as the key to establishing harmony in the human realm (Confucianism), living in harmony with the forces of nature (Daoism), and realizing harmony with the totality of space and time (Buddhism).

The distribution of grades for the course is as follows:

10%Class Participation
60%Essays (3x20%: 6 pages/1,500-word minimum)
5%Contemplative Event Paper (2 pages/500-word minimum)
15% Temple Visit Paper (4 pages/1,000-word minimum)
10%Final Exam

You final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

A-/A  Possesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course.  The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the readings, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these concepts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.

B-/B/B+  Demonstrates a serious commitment to the course (i.e. attendance and participation) and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.

C-/C/C+  Demonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.

D  Demonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.

F  Fails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Participation (hands in the air)
Class Participation
Your participation mark will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material. Although the quality of your comments will obviously be taken into consideration, all attempts to seriously engage the readings—from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question—will enhance your grade. Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your comments, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly and frequently participate in class discussions; superior performance in both areas will result in an “A”, whereas inferior performance will result in a “C” or less.
 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Writing Assignments
Essays
There will be a 6-page essay (1,500-word minimum) for each of the three main traditions covered in the course: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. All papers should be submitted online @ Blackboard/Assignments; due dates are listed on the syllabus and your grade will go down one degree (e.g. from B+ to B) for each day that the essay is late. Please note that you must provide appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations using either Chicago Style footnotes and MLA brackets and bibliography. If you have any doubts regarding what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please refer to the college’s plagiarism policy in the Student Handbook. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs.
 
Essay 1 ~ Daoism
Living in Harmony with the Forces of Nature
 
Taoism became a complex, pluralistic system in the forty centuries since its legendary beginnings. It is concerned with four major areas: the philosophical (Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, for example), the ritualistic (temple worship of countless gods and goddesses), the talismanic (sorcery and magic to ward off evil), and the ascetic (the tradition of gaining immortality or spiritual enlightenment through elixirs or meditation). This is simply a rough division; most Taoist sects combine the four in varying proportions. Almost all orders, for example, maintained public temples that both served their constituencies and brought financial support for more esoteric practices. (The Wandering Taoist, xix-xxx)
 
Explain how the Daoist principle of “living in harmony with the forces of nature” is exemplified in each of these four areas of practice, supporting your argument with references to Saihung’s training in The Wandering Taoist as well as at least four academic sources. Does this principle unite the four areas of practice into a coherent tradition or is Daoism simply a general term for a collection of distinct approaches to religious cultivation? For more details, see the Essay 1 Rubric below.
Bamboo Separator
Essay 2 ~ Buddhism
Realizing Harmony with the Totality of Space-Time
Although numerous schools of Chinese Buddhism had developed by the end of the Tang dynasty (618-907), most were fatally weakened by the collapse of the Tang with the exception of the Chan and Pure Land traditions, which gradually merged into a generic form of Buddhism that continues to represent mainstream Chinese Buddhism to this day. While both approaches pursue the same ultimate goal — realizing harmony with the totality of space-time (i.e., nirvana) — Chan’s emphasis on “self power” (reaching enlightenment through one’s own efforts) and Pure Land’s focus on “other power” (relying on the spiritual power of buddhas and bodhisattvas) would appear to be mutually exclusive. Discuss the relationship between these two approaches and explain why they can — or cannot — be harmoniously integrated into a coherent and comprehensive approach to Buddhism that is consistent with the teachings of the historical Buddha. Your paper must include references to Guo Jun’s Essential Chan Buddhism and at least four academic sources. For more details, see the Essay 2 Rubric below.
Bamboo Separator
Essay 3 ~ Confucianism
Establishing Harmony in the Human Realm

As Mario Poceski notes in Introducing Chinese Religions, Confucianism is “a somewhat amorphous tradition that lacked many of the trappings and institutions of organized religion,” but also includes “many aspects … that are either explicitly or implicitly religious.1 So is the Confucian focus on establishing harmony in the human realm merely a kind of social philosophy or does it represent a genuinely religious path of spiritual cultivation? Your essay should include an academic definition of religion (to help explain why Confucianism is or is not a religion) as well as references to Tu Weiming’s Centrality and Commonality and at least four academic sources. You may wish to consider the religious significance of some or all of the following concepts: ren (humaneness), li (ritual propriety), Heaven (as a deity and/or a cosmic force), ancestor worship, self-cultivation, the Confucian sage, the Confucian temple, and the ultimate Confucian goal of establishing social, political and cosmic harmony. For more details, see the Essay 3 Rubric below.

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi

Religious Practice
Chinese Religion in Practice
Although the academic study of religion often focuses on theoretical concepts (such as the core beliefs of a religious tradition), it is also important to understand the relationship between theory and practice. You will therefore attend at least one event in the “Contemplative Series” that is hosted by the Religious Studies department each semester and at least one Chinese religious service.
 
Contemplative Event Paper
Every semester, the Religious Studies department hosts a number of “Contemplative Events,” each of which features a brief talk by an experienced practitioner of a particular tradition (religious or secular), followed by a meditative exercise and open discussion. After attending the event of your choice, you will write a paper that explores the religious significance of the exercise with regard to at least one Chinese tradition. For example, you might attend a Hindu event but discuss how the meditative exercise relates to a particular form of Chinese meditation (Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism each have distinct forms of meditation); or you might attend a secular “mindfulness” session and discuss the general significance of meditation within Chinese religion. One way or another, your paper should reflect on the role of religious practice and/or religious experience in the Chinese tradition. Dates for this term’s Contemplative Events are provided on the syllabus. For more details on the essay requirements see the Contemplative Event Rubric below.
Bamboo Separator
Temple Visit Paper
Arrangements will be made to visit two local Buddhist temples: Foguangshan, which has a Chan orientation but draws on the entire Chinese Buddhist tradition, and the Pure Land Center and Buddhist Library, which focuses on faith-based practices but includes a short meditation in its weekly service. (You may also choose to attend a different Chinese religious service, though unfortunately there are no Daoist or Confucian temples in the area.) After attending the service of your choice, you will write a paper that provides a general summary of the service as well as a detailed description of a specific ritual (or other element of the service) that you found particularly interesting. You should then explore the significance of the ritual/element through references to at least three academic sources. Your paper should include references to a conversation with at least one member of the congregation and it should conclude with a discussion of how the temple visit, together with your additional research, helped you develop a deeper understanding of Chinese Buddhism (or Chinese religion more generally). For more details on the essay requirements see the Temple Visit Rubric below. (Note: if you attend both services, you may do a comparative analysis of the two services or compare a specific ritual/element from each.)
 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Person taking an exam
Final Exam
The Final Exam will focus on one or more essay-style questions that will be distributed prior to the exam.
 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Textbooks
Required Texts
  • Poceski, Mario. Introducing Chinese Religions. London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Deng Ming-Dao. Chronicles of Tao: The Secret Life of a Taoist Master. San Francisco: HarperOne, 1993. (Note: we will read Part 1: The Wandering Taoist.)
  • Guo Jun. Essential Chan Buddhism: The Character and Spirit of Chinese Zen. Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish Book Publishing Company, 2013.
  • Tu, Weiming. Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Confucian Religiousness. New York: State University of New York Press, 1989.
  • All additional readings are available online @ Blackboard/Readings.
 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Office Hours: "The Teacher is In"
Office Hours & Contact Inrormation
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Monday to Friday, 10:30-11:30 (or by appointment)
Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4:30-5:30

Phone: 630-637-5619
E-Mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu

 


1 Mario Poceski, Introducing Chinese Religions (London: Routledge, 2009), 35-6.
 
Rubric
Essay 1 Rubric
Daoism: Living in Harmony with the Forces of Nature
 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Satisfactory
.70-.79

Good
.80-.89

Excellent
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<1250 words

1250-1500 words

1500-1750 words

>1750 words

2%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with many spelling, grammar or citation mistakes

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with few stylistic errors

2%

EVIDENCE FROM THE WANDERING TAOIST

There are significant problems with the references to The Wandering Taoist

The examples from The Wandering Taoist do not cover the four areas of practice

The examples from The Wandering Taoist adequately cover the four areas of practice

The examples from The Wandering Taoist clearly illustrate the four areas of practice

8%

SECONDARY SOURCES

There are no references to secondary sources

The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are appropriate references to at least 4 peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are at least 4 secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used

5%
THESIS The paper lacks a clear thesis regarding the unity of the Daoist tradition The thesis is not sufficiently discussed in the introduction and/or conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion There is an insightful thesis regarding the unity of the Daoist tradition 3%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

20%

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Essay 2 Rubric
Buddhism: Realizing Harmony with the Totality of Space-Time
 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Satisfactory
.70-.79

Good
.80-.89

Excellent
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<1250 words

1250-1500 words

1500-1750 words

>1750 words

2%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with many spelling, grammar or citation mistakes

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with few stylistic errors

2%

ESSENTIAL CHAN BUDDHISM EVIDENCE

There are significant problems with the references to Essential Chan Buddhism

The examples from Essential Chan Buddhism are not relevant to the thesis

The examples from Essential Chan Buddhism reasonably advance the thesis

The examples from Essential Chan Buddhism insightfully advance the thesis

5%

SECONDARY SOURCES

There are no references to secondary sources

The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are appropriate references to at least 4 peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are at least 4 secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used

8%
THESIS The paper lacks a clear thesis regarding the self power/other power relationship The thesis is not sufficiently discussed in the introduction and/or conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion There is an insightful thesis regarding the self power/other power relationship 3%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

20%

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Essay 3 Rubric
Confucianism: Establishing Harmony in the Human Realm
 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Satisfactory
.70-.79

Good
.80-.89

Excellent
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<1250 words

1250-1500 words

1500-1750 words

>1750 words

2%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with many spelling, grammar or citation mistakes

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with few stylistic errors

2%

EVIDENCE FROM CENTRALITY & COMMONALITY

There are significant problems with the references to C&C

The examples from C&C are not relevant to the thesis

The examples from C&C reasonably advance the thesis

The examples from C&C insightfully advance the thesis

8%

SECONDARY SOURCES

There are no references to secondary sources

The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are appropriate references to at least 4 peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are at least 4 secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used

5%
THESIS The paper lacks a clear thesis regarding the religious status of Confucianism The thesis is not sufficiently discussed in the introduction and/or conclusion The thesis is presented in the introduction and adequately discussed in the conclusion There is an insightful thesis regarding the religious status of Confucianism 3%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

20%

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Contemplative Event Rubric
 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Satisfactory
.70-.79

Good
.80-.89

Excellent
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<400 words

400-500 words

500-600 words

>600 words

1%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with many spelling, grammar or citation mistakes

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with few stylistic errors

1%

DESCRIPTION OF EVENT

The contemplative event is not described in sufficient detail

The contemplative event is described in minimal detail

The contemplative event is described in appropriate detail

The description of the contemplative event significantly enhances the paper

1%

RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF EXERCISE

The religious significance of the contemplative exercise is not explored

There is minimal exploration of the religious significance of the exercise

The religious significance of the exercise is appropriately explored

The religious significance of the exercise is insightfully discussed

2%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

5%

 
Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi
Temple Visit Rubric
 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Satisfactory
.70-.79

Good
.80-.89

Excellent
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<750 words

750-1000 words

1000-1250 words

>1250 words

1.5%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with many spelling, grammar or citation mistakes

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with few stylistic errors

1.5%

SUMMARY OF SERVICE & CONGREGANT CONVO

The service is inadequately described and/or no discussion with congregant

The service is reasonably described with some reference to congregant discussion

The service is clearly described with relevant references to congregant discussion

The service is clearly described with insightful use of congregant discussion

2%
EXPLORATION OF RITUAL OR ELEMENT
There are significant problems with the description & analysis of the ritual/element The ritual/element is adequately described with minimal analysis The ritual/element is clearly described and appropriately analyzed The ritual/element is thoroughly described and insightfully analyzed 5%

SECONDARY SOURCES

There are no references to secondary sources

The paper lacks appropriate references to peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are appropriate references to at least 3 peer-reviewed secondary sources

There are at least 3 secondary sources that are well chosen and skillfully used

3%
THESIS No discussion of how the visit developed your understanding of Chinese Buddhism Adequate discussion of how the visit developed your understanding of CB Clear discussion of what you learned about CB by exploring a ritual/element Insightful discussion of the relationship between religious theory and practice 2%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

15%

Confucius, Buddhist Monk, and Laozi