Mark Blum
Professor, Buddhist Studies; Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair in Japanese Studies
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
(510) 664-4085

Research Expertise and Interest

Buddhism, Japan, culture and society, modernization


There are four areas of research. (1) The intersection of Buddhist culture with Japanese culture. This looks to clarify the process by which Japanese society was changed by Buddhism and how Buddhism in Japan differs from other Buddhist countries, and involves philological study of the language of Chinese translations from Indic texts, apocryphal scriptures composed in China, Chinese influenced Central Asia, and Japan, and the translformation of Japanese notions of self and society from the thirteenth century. (2) The way in which Pure Land Buddhism as a distinctly East Asian form of Buddhist culture, and what it says about how Chinese and Japanese Buddhists self-identified as Buddhists, the importance of historical consciousness to this process, and its many forms of performative art in Japan. (3) Annotated translations of seiminal Buddhist texts from Chinese and Japanese relevant to questions (1) and (2) above. At the moment I am in the midst of three translation projects: the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (aka Nirvana Sutra) from a Chinese translation completed around 430 CE, which will be published in 4 volumes, the first of which came out in 2013, the exegetical commentary on the Guan wuliangshou jing written by Shandao (613-681), and the Japanese language writings of Honen (1133-1212). (4) Issues in complex modernization of Japanese society and its effect upon Japanese Buddhism and religious consiousness in general. Japan went through a process similar to Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of romanticism, mythological hyper-nationalism, imperialism, and capitalism, and it did so far earlier than any other Buddhist country. In the midst of these social changes, the import of the academic discipline of Buddhist Studies from Europe led to publications in deymythologization beginning in the 1890s which in turn caused enormous upheaval intellectually and institutionally, and new university-church relationships.

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