Religious Pilgrimage in China and Tibet

Spring 2018
M 1:30 - 3:20pm
Area V
MDIV Requirements: 
Non-Christian Religion
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This course comprises comparative study of historic and contemporary religious pilgrimage rituals among Tibetan Buddhist and Roman Catholic communities in China, including visual and textual representation as well as theological meaning. The course will involve lectures during Spring semester 2018 on Tibetan Buddhist and Chinese Catholic ritual practices surrounding religious pilgrimage, including natural and built sacred sites, their textual and visual representations, and theological interpretations. In early May 2018 the class will travel to Shanghai and Lhasa (10 days total), visiting Sheshan pilgrimage site, then continuing to Lhasa. After acclimatization, students will visit the Lhasa Jokhang (epicenter of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage) and the Potala Palace (winter residence of the Dalai Lamas), as well sacred sites outside the capital. Students will study ritual, visual, and material depictions of the rituals that occur in at those sites, with lectures conducted in situ.

Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the Institute for Sacred Music; students will need to purchase a visa for China, any medical immunizations needed; and meals during the trip.

Objectives: This course will offer students new intellectual and experiential understanding of ritual practice and of pilgrimage; it will allow students to make inter-religious connections between Buddhist and Christian practices; it will enable students to appreciate an integration of visual, textual and landscape sources for theological work.

Background Expected: 

No specific background requirements.

Course Requirements: 

Students are expected to have read the set materials for each week’s class and be prepared to engage in discussion on the topic.

Students are also required to submit passport, visa etc. details according to the timetable given by instructors; to acknowledge any health guidance given; and to remain cheerful should last minute changes to itineraries or plans be necessary. 

Other requirements as per evaluation below.

Basis of Evaluation: 

One term paper or two shorter essays (2000-3000 words) developed out of the course readings on either Tibetan or Chinese religious pilgrimage practice, their textual and visual representations or theological interpretations. For graduating students this must be completed prior to travel.

Attendance during travel component and completion of a travel journal.