Projects and Activities

The Department of Asia Studies in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is proud to present a variety of activities and projects that enhance the students' understanding of the Asian culture.

Asian Languages Library

The establishment of the Asian Languages Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2007 became a major breakthrough in East Asian studies in Israel. The library, the first of its kind in Israel and the wider Middle East, was established by the Frieberg Center of Asian Studies within the Central Library of Mt. Scopus. The library aimed at providing state-of-the-art research facilities for the rapidly growing number of graduate students and scholars of East Asian Studies in Israel. In addition to the expanding book collection of over 10,000 volumes, the Library promptly entered the 21st century with providing access to multiple Chinese and Japanese electronic databases, most of which had been heretofore inaccessible from Israel. For more information, visit this link.

Asian Library

Historical Manga Collection

In 2013, the Department of Asian Studies has established its own historical manga collection, aiming at interesting students in reading about Japan through the highly popular medium of manga. The collection currently includes over 300 manga books focusing in Japanese history, featuring series of famous Japanese mangaka such as Tezuka Osamu, Mizuki Shigeru, and Nakazawa Keiji. In coming years we plan to offer a special course on the depiction of history through manga. For more information visit this link. Joint BA in East Asian Studies and Business Administration.

Manga Collection

The Shagan Collection of Japanese Art


The Shagan Collection of Japanese Art was established in 2016 at the Department of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, thanks to a donation by Mr. Ofer Shagan. The collection features more than one hundred fifty items from the 15-19 centuries, including ukiyo-e prints, scrolls, books, shunga, silk paintings, and masks. The collection includes the artwork known artists such as Hiroshige, Chikanobu, Kunichika and Kunisada, as well as work which have yet to be researched.

 The Department aspires to establish itself as an academic forum for researchers and students interested in Japanese art. 


These works of art are an added contribution to previous donations of dozens of Japanese art books , which Mr. Shagan had donated to the Department in memory of his late sister Ornit (Shagan) Talmon.


In June 2017, Dr. Kazuko Kameda-Madar, specialist Edo Period art and Kanbun reading from Hawaii Pacific University, conducted a special seminar in Jerusalem using the Shagan Collection. In this seminar, supported by the Japan Foundation, advanced students read some of scripts on the scrolls, discussed and documented the art motifs and iconography of some of the items. For the workshop page on the site click here



 Mr. Ofer Shagan is an art collector based in Tokyo. He is the owner of the world's biggest collection of Shunga. He is also the author of eleven books about Japanese and Asian art, including

Japan Erotic Art (Thames & Hudson, 2013)


information on the attached paintings:

Artist: Ochiai Yoshiiku

Title: 「今様擬源氏 五十一」/ Ch. 51, Ukifune: Satô Masakiyo, from the series Modern Parodies of Genji (Imayô nazorae Genji)

Year: 1864


Artist: Utagawa Kunisada

Title (middle panel): 「岩永宗蓮 嵐吉三郎」「人丸 尾上菊次郎」

 Year: 1842


Artist: Kojima Shougetsu

Title: Visit to the Ise Shrines by a Gathering of Military Officers and Commanding Generals; Prince Arisugawa Being Promoted to General (Shôshô narabi ni shichi shôshô saizoku sangû zu, Arisugawa no miya rikugun daishô... )

Year: 1877


Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige

Title: Two Sumo Wrestlers Confront Each Other

Year: 1840





Traveling Seminars to Asian Countries

The Department of Asian Studies offers a variety of "Traveling Seminars" to China, Mongolia, India, Japan and Korea. The courses, voluntarily led by the department's academic staff, offers the students a unique and enriching way to experience the material they have been learning about throughout the years. Below are examples from recent years.


Traveling Course to Mongolia (2010)

In 2010, a group of twenty students and ten faculty members from The Department of East Asian Studies and the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem went for a two-week study tour of Mongolia, designed to further strengthen the study of the Mongols and Central Asia at the University. The delegation was led by Prof. Michal Biran of our department and Prof. Reuven Amitai – the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. The trip began with two full days in the capital of Ulaan Baatar, where various historical spots were visited. During the tour, the delegation was officially hosted at the National University of Mongolia (N.U.M.) in Ulaan Baatar, where they signed agreement of cooperation with the Hebrew University, followed by a joint conference with researchers from the N.U.M. The Hebrew University is one of the foremost centers in the world for the study of the Mongol Empire, the largest land empire in history, founded in the early 13th century by Genghis Khan. For more information click here.


Traveling Course to China (2013)

 "Between China and the Islamic World", is a traveling seminar in Xinjiang (新疆), China, led by of Prof. Michal Biran, Prof. Yuri Pines and Prof. Gideon Shelach from the Department of Asian Studies. Xinjiang, the autonomous region in western – south of the People's Republic of China, is one of the most fascinating regions in Asia, historically and culturally. For thousands of years, the region has been an intersection between cultures, civilizations and different religions and has a strategic significance to China today. The tour includes historic, ethnographic, political, geographic and economic perspectives. The tour also include meetings with academics from Xinjiang, visiting museums and research institutes, and touring the markets, the mountain and dessert roads. For more information click here.

Traveling course to India (2015)

Temples and Stages, our first traveling class to India, took place in February 2015. Guided by Prof. David Shulman and Prof. Yigal Bronner, a group of 24 students, conducted an in-depth tour of India’s southern peninsula, and experienced its traditional and current aspects. The course was divided to three main parts. The first was in and around Chennai (Madras), the second part was dedicated to the Kaveri delta, the core of South Indian civilization, and the third part was Kochi’s colonial city, the country of spices and coconuts. Throughout the course, the students experienced the metropolis, culture, temples, music and the museums of India. We returned to Jerusalem euphoric and with an appetite for more. For more information click here.


Travelling seminar to Japan (2015)

Designated for outstanding students of Japan at The Hebrew University, the seminar includes meetings in Jerusalem and traveling to Japan during the summer vacation guided by Dr. Nissim Otmazgin. During the seminar, we will discuss the history, culture, society and religion in Japan. Throughout the seminar, the students will have intensive reading about Japan and take part in discussions and guest lectures. The students will be given research travel grants to Japan for two weeks. In Japan, we will visit sites relevant to these fields of study: history and historical memory, Shinto, Buddhism, contemporary society and popular culture. We will also visit universities and meet with local students and researchers. For more information click here.

The Polonsky Foundation Scholarships in Chinese Studies

With the rise of China being one of the most significant global phenomena of  recent decades, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been the pioneer in Chinese studies in Israel with its department of East Asian Studies already established in the 1960s.  The department, which in 2010 was recognized by he rector of the University as the “best academic unit,” provides a comprehensive training program in Chinese language, history and politics for both BA and MA students. Nowadays Chinese studies at the Hebrew University are ranked among the top five European centers of Sinological research. This state of international renown would have been unthinkable without the support of the Polonsky Foundation over the last two decades.

The Polonsky Foundation has initiated and supported various activities and projects, all intended to promote and enhance the study of China at the Hebrew University. These activities have been all-encompassing, relating to the wide range of topics we strive to provide for the training of our students. They include, for example,  the pioneering Polonsky Foundation Overseas Scholarships which are granted to outstanding advanced students going to study in China; the PhD fellowships with special preference for Chinese studies; the increasingly rich databases owned by the Asian Languages Library of the Hebrew University; the intensive Chinese language summer course in China; the support of an M.A. translation workshop tour to Hunan, China, following the footsteps of the eminent Chinese writer Shen Congwen; and, the unparalleled 2011 International Conference for Asian Studies (ASI2011). All these projects have enabled our students to gain first-hand experience of China and to reach the highest international standards. Over the years the Polonsky Foundation has shaped the new generation of Israeli Sinologists and contributed to the training of China specialists in the fields of business and diplomacy. 

StartUp Asia – Job Fair

Starting in 2014, the Department of Asian Studies and the School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are hosted "StartUp Asia", an Annual Job Fair for students and alumni interested in Asian markets. The event include workshops guided by leading Israeli experts in Asia. In addition, various companies re able to recruit from about 200 participants who arrive to fare. Among the leading companies with business ties to Asia are Mobileye, the world pioneer in developing accident prevention systems based on computerized visual technology; the Ministry of Tourism which trains Israeli tour guides for Chinese tourists and many more in fields such as Hi – Tech, information security, sales accounting, language teaching and media. For further information click here


The Department's High School Project

Started in 2008, the high school project is one of our major contributions to the community and is an example of the cooperative spirit between students and faculty in our department. This project aims to interest and teach Israeli High School students about Japanese and Chinese culture, history, language through interactive lectures, workshops, and special activities given by outstanding students from the Department of Asian Studies. Thousands of high school students in Jerusalem have taken part in the project. The project is academically supervised by Dr. Nissim Otmazgin and Dr. Orna Naftali of the Department of Asian Studies. 

Central Asia under Mongol Rule: Rulers, Subjects and Emigrants of the Chaghadaid Khanate (1220-1405)

This project undertakes to fill an important void in the study of both the Mongol empire and Central Asian history by reconstructing the intricate mosaic that constituted Central Asian society under Mongol rule and by analyzing various political, institutional, social, and intellectual aspects of the Chaghadaid Khanate. 

Named after Chaghadai, Chinggis Khan’s second son, this polity ruled over Central Asia—from present-day Uzbekistan to eastern Xinjiang, China—between 1220 and 1370 and over eastern Central Asia (Moghulistan) until the 17th century. However, the chronological scope of the proposed study ends with the passing of Tamerlane (r. 1370-1405), for at this juncture both the Timurids and Chaghadaid Moghuls relinquished all hope of reuniting the severed Chaghadaid Khanate.

Although the study of the Mongol empire and Central Asia has flourished in recent decades, scholars have, by and large, ignored the Chaghadaids. This is due to the relative dearth of  indigenous sources that were written in their khanate, especially compared to the ample historical literature available from the neighboring states of Yuan China and Ilkhanid Iran. In light of the above, a history of the Chaghadaids can only be achieved by synthesizing a vast array of multilingual sources that were composed in different genres and regions. Accordingly, the project under review will integrate a close reading of many and manifold literary sources—largely in Persian, Arabic, and Chinese—from Yuan and Ming China, Ilkhanid and Timurid Iran, and to a lesser extent from Mamluk Egypt and Syria, the Delhi Sultanate, and Western Europe with all the extant indigenous sources that originated in Mongol Central Asia: Mongolian and Uighur documents, Syriac gravestones (in translation), colophons, scientific, religious, and literary works, and numismatic and archaeological studies (primarily in Russian). Drawing on this plethora of sources, I will forge a new history of the Chaghadaids.

This will be accomplished by means of three complementary steps: 

  1. Analyzing the political history of the Chaghadaid Khanate and its major institutions. Within this framework, I will also explore the polity’s ties with its Eurasian counterparts. 
  2. Reconstructing, within the limits of the existing sources, the social-economic and culturalintellectual life of Central Asian nomadic and sedentary societies in the Chaghadaid realm. This includes the activities of Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and even Jewish networks that operated in Central Asia, as well as the relations that these people had with both the Mongol rulers and their co-religionists outside the khanate. 
  3. Mapping Central Asian emigrants and diasporas in the various Mongol khanates (as well as the Mamluk and Delhi Sultanates) and examining the role that they filled in the empire and throughout Eurasia during the period in question. 

On the basis of these three principal steps, I will then determine Central Asia’s place in the Mongol empire and that of the Mongol empire in Central Asian history. In so doing, the study will not only give the Chaghadaids their deserved place in world history, but promises to considerably enhance our theoretical understanding of cross cultural contacts, East-West exchange, pre-modern migrations, diasporas politics, and nomad-sedentary relations.



Imperial Immortality: Political Culture in Traditional China

Yuri Pines: Research support from the Israeli Science Foundation, 2007-2011

This study aimed at explaining how the Chinese empire (221 BCE – 1912 CE) attained its unparalleled longevity. To answer this question, I analyzed pivotal ideas behind the empire’s creation and functioning, such as the emphasis on political unity and on the emperor’s absolute power, and examined how the four crucial political actors – the emperor, the intellectuals, local elites and the commoners – interacted among themselves through the imperial millennia. I have also suggested some considerations about the impact of traditional political culture on China’s modern development trajectory.  
The study resulted in a major publication: The Everlasting Empire: Traditional Chinese Political Culture and Its Enduring Legacy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012) ( ), in addition to numerous articles

Kudiyattam: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to the Living Sanskrit Theater of Kerala

To the Official Website of "Living Sanskrit Theater in Kerala"

Our aim is, first, to observe and experience and then to document and interpret, in an analytical and interdisciplinary mode, the last surviving tradition of Sanskrit drama in performance in India - the Sanskrit theater of Kerala known as Kūḍiyāṭṭam and its allied performative genres in this region, on the south-west coast of India.

Kūḍiyāṭṭam (recognized by UNESCO as "one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity") is an ancient form of drama with an uninterrupted history of live performance in the Kerala temples over at least the last 1200 years by highly trained actors, dancers and musicians from the Cakkyar and Nambyar castes. Performances traditionally were carried out over many consecutive nights-6 or 7 (minimally), 13 to 15 (conventionally), 41 (occasionally)-which usually sufficed to complete only a single act from one of the classical dramas. In the days when the actors were supported by lands given by the temple, this somewhat "slow" pace (in our view, it is actually not so slow in experience) was never a problem. In modern Kerala the great artists of Kudiyattam are no longer temple servants; they compete for patronage and performance venues with all other, usually more modern forms of theater.
As a result, a typical Kudiyattam performance today lasts only some two to three hours, and there is no scope or possibility for mounting a performance in the rich, complex mode for which the actors have been trained from their early childhood. The highly receptive, educated, and sensitized audiences of connoisseurs necessary for such an art are also vanishing. To make the point clear: when the Hebrew University sent a small group of students and teachers to Kerala in the summer of 2008 to observe a complete performance, some 50 hours, of one of the major texts-the famous fifth act of Śaktibhadra's play, Āścarya-cūḍāmaṇi and also bore the cost of this enterprise, this was the first such performance in a generation. It is not clear that there will be another.
        The importance of the kind of study we envisage can hardly be overstated: it is as if a surviving form of ancient Greek tragedy had been discovered on some isolated island and classical scholars trained in the Greek texts of Aeschylus and Sophocles could now turn their attention to their still living embodiment, with its own unique features and complexities, and to the conceptual and theoretical world of the performers who have preserved this lost art. Kudiyattam is an art form that is visually and emotionally overwhelming, intellectually engaging, and tantalizing in terms of an analytical understanding of its complexities. It enacts many of the most beloved Sanskrit plays, some from the classical repertoire from the middle of the first millennium C.E., others from the dramatic production in Sanskrit by well-known Kerala poets of the medieval period (for example, Kulaśekhara and Śaktibhadra, both from circa the eleventh-twelfth centuries, and Melpattūr Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa, of the sixteenth century). The actual texts of these works are, however, no more than a skeletal platform for performance, which elaborates them in radical ways, in effect establishing a new mode of textuality worthy of detailed study in its own right. 
Medieval Sanskrit commentaries go some way toward illuminating this textual mode, as do the production manuals, Āṭṭa-prakāram, that have survived in hand-written copies in the households of the actors. In recent years, important scholarly work has been devoted to the tradition, notably by a Kerala scholar (K. G. Paulose) and a highly trained and insightful German Indologist (Heike Moser of Tübingen). A basic secondary literature on the tradition now exists, but deeper, exhaustive study, driven by strong analytical questions and sustained experience of the performances, still awaits a large-scale scholarly effort. Probably only a team of scholars can make real progress.
        After seeing the 50-hour performances of Act V of the Āścarya-cūḍāmaṇi in 2008, we began to formulate a program to deepen our engagement with the Kudiyattam tradition. It became immediately clear to us that a new horizon had opened up and that profound questions, many of them quite new, could begin to be addressed. For example, this kind of performance generates very complex cognitive effects in the spectator (who is also deeply integrated into the effort of decoding the intricate language of gesture and movement, abhinaya, of the actors on stage). Indeed, the indigenous theory of Kudiyattam performance has much to tell us about these quite far-reaching cognitive transformations and the states of awareness that the drama is meant to induce. A standard Kudiyattam performance revolves around the interweaving of memory and imagination-in the character portrayed on stage and in the audience engaged in empathic response to him or her. One way to describe what happens is to speak of an astonishingly rich externalization of the character's mind and, in particular, of the imaginative components of his or her awareness which, mingled with intertextual memories, are made visible by the movements of hands and eyes and by recited texts. It is as if one were watching an X-ray (to be up to date, let us say an MRI) of the mind of the hero or heroine, replete with shifting aspects of mood, feeling, fragments of texts, other residues of speech and thought, and crystallized memory. One challenge that awaits us is to offer an adequate analysis of 
this Yoga of the Imagination in terms of a more comprehensive, context-sensitive, culturally configured meta-psychology. In addition to the cognitive and meta-psychological domain, further questions touch on the evolutionary sequence of the Kerala expressive arts, the meaning and dynamics of the ritual framing of performance (the god in the temple is always the prime spectator, present throughout, undergoing changes in the terms of his own internal composition in the course of the drama), the unexplored para-linguistic codes and non-verbal communication, the transformative potential of this art form for both actors and (human) spectators, the articulation of profound cultural themes and issues, and so on.
        The Hebrew University has already established a firm working relationship with some of the best Kudiyattam performers in Kerala today, the Nepathya troupe at the village of Muḻikkuḷam (near Cochin/Ernakulam). Margi Madhu, the principal performer and teacher, comes from a long-established family of Kudiyattam actors; he has won every possible award, both in Kerala and nationally in India, for his astonishing skills. Although there are other Kudiyattam schools and troupes, and we want to explore them as well, we are proud of our link with Nepathya. They were our hosts in the village in August-September 2008, and they also came to Jerusalem for two outstanding performances, as guests of the Hebrew University, in January 2009. Nepathya is also a teaching institution, training students and performers.
        We can thus define several interlocking aspects of our project:
1) Understanding the tradition in its uniqueness. We need to analyze the primary dynamic features of the Kudiyattam tradition and to formulate working hypotheses of an interpretative nature about the way it is put together; about its implicit notions of primary categories such as time, space, personhood, plot, imagination, and the language of movement; about its links to the ancient prescriptive works on drama; 
about its ritual components and metaphysical substratum; and, above all, about its peculiar poetics and aesthetics that illuminate the nature of the experience the drama aims to achieve. The only way to proceed is to absorb as much of the repertoire, in live performance, as possible. Although we do have printed and manuscript texts for most of the dramas, there is simply no way even to imagine their exfoliation in traditional performance—except to witness the performance. Our experience in Mulikkulam in the summer of 2008 showed us clearly that a full-scale performance in real time (enough time to allow for the organic rhythm of the art to work itself through) brings into lucid focus the deep structures and conceptual templates of this art form. To make sense of the tradition in relation to the classical sources, on the one hand, and the living ritual and wider performative contexts of Kerala, on the other, requires sustained exposure and study. A comprehensive workshop summing up the results of our work over three years and presenting it to a broad interdisciplinary audience is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in 2012.
2) Complete documentation. This lingering tradition of classical Sanskrit drama may soon disappear altogether. Already, as the performance context has shifted from the temple to the modern stage, various parameters are being transformed. To date the powerful links to the medieval past have retained their compelling presence, but even the actors themselves fear the attenuation of the tradition. Since we are working with a troupe that has total command over the entire repertoire of Kudiyattam performance, it is critical that we document their work in its non-abridged, original mode. We of course recorded the fifteen-night performance Ascarya-cudamani, Act V, in its entirety; and we need to continue this effort to the point of creating an 
exhaustive digital library of Nepathya performances. This means subsidizing large-scale performances, at least once a year, over the next three years.
3) Interdisciplinary cross-fertilization and teaching. A satisfactory exploration of Kudiyattam cannot be left to the Indologists alone, nor should it be limited to this one genre, however important it may be. Kudiyattam works on many levels and requires analysis driven by the theoretical and empirical concerns of several academic fields. The musical component alone is a major analytical challenge. The ritual framing of the performance connects Kudiyattam to the possession dances known as Teyāṭṭam, with their associated Malayalam texts, and to the prominent ritual genre of Muḍiyettu, based on a dramatic text meant to bring the goddess Bhagavatī into being. Perhaps the philosophical aspect is the most enticing, and the most difficult—since all of these performances give expression to a culture-specific understanding of the world, and of the human person, that stands in marked contrast with more familiar Mediterranean and European visions of self and cosmos. Kudiyattam offers a particularly rich point of departure, indeed a living laboratory for experimentation, to scholars interested in defining the distinctiveness of primary South Indian cultural and metaphysical intuitions.
Our partners thus include the Department of Musicology at the Hebrew University, the MA-MFA program in Theater Arts in Tel Aviv University, and the new Program in East Asian Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia (funded by ERC).

Painting of battle - Mongolian EmpireThe project seeks to explain why, how, when and to where people, ideas and artifacts moved in Mongol Eurasia, and what were the outcomes of these huge  movements.

Studying the  Mongol Empire in its full Eurasian context, the project  combines a world history perspective with close reading in a huge array of primary sources in various languages (mainly Persian, Arabic and Chinese) and different historiographical traditions, and classifies the acquired information into a sophisticated prosopographical database   ( ),which records the individuals acting under Mongol rule in the 13th and 14th centuries. On the basis of this unique corpus, the project maps and analyzes mobility patterns, and the far-reaching effects that this mobility generated. More specifically, it aims:
(a) to analyze modes of migrations in Mongol Eurasia: why, how, when and into where people- along with their ideas and artifacts - moved across Eurasia, portraying the full spectrum of such populations movements from the coerced to the voluntary.
(b) to shed light on the economic and cultural exchange that this mobility engendered, with a stress on the religious, scientific and commercial networks both within and beyond the empire‘s frontiers.
(c) to reconstruct the new elite of the empire by scrutinizing the personnel of key Mongolian institutions, such as the guard, the judicial and postal systems, the diplomatic corps, and the local administration.
These issues will be studied comparatively, in the period of the united Mongol empire (1206-1260) and across its four successor khanates that centered at China, Iran, Central Asia and Russia.
The project is led by Professor Michal Biran of the Hebrew University and conducted by an international team of young scholars working in Jerusalem.
The project's results will be a quantum leap forward in our understanding of the Mongol empire and its impact on world history, and a major contribution to the theoretical study of pre-modern migrations, cross-cultural contacts, nomad-sedentary relations and comparative study of empires. Moreover, the re-conceptualization of the economic and cultural exchange in Mongol Eurasia will lead to a reevaluation of a crucial stage in world history that begins with the Mongol period:  the transition from the Middle Ages to the early modern era.

Origins of Agriculture and Sedentary Communities in Northeast China

Participants surveying the land

Prof. Gidon Shelach

The project Origins of Agriculture and Sedentary Communities in Northeast China addresses the development of agriculture and sedentary ways of life, two interrelated processes that revolutionized human subsistence strategies, dietary habits and living conditions. At the same time, they are also associated with meaningful transformations of social relations and cultural formations that dramatically changed the nature of human societies and set the stage for the development of complex societies. Surprisingly, though, of the handful of centers of independent agricultural development in the world, China is the only one for which we cannot reconstruct a full trajectory from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural communities. Through a field work in the Fuxin (阜新) area, western Liaoning province, we hope to accumulate archaeological data that will help filling this gap in our knowledge of China’s past and will be instrumental in better understanding one of the most important processes in the history of Chinese Civilization and the development of human society in large.

Our field work including systematic and intensive regional surveys as well as targeted excavations in a selection of early Neolithic and Pre-Neolithic sites discovered by such surveys.  It brings together archaeologists and students from theResearch Center of Chinese Frontier Archaeology at Jilin University, the Hebrew University, and the Liaoning Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics.  The research is funded with grants from the National Geographic Society (grant no. 8614-09) and the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 502\11).




The Book of Lord Shang: Apologetics of the State Power in Early China

Shang Yang StatueYuri Pines: Research support from the Israeli Science Foundation, 2011-2014

My new study deals with The Book of Lord Shang, one of the major ideological texts of the Warring States period (453-221 BCE). This text is attributed to the famous reformer from the state of Qin, Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE); it presents in the most blatant way the idea of a “total state” which fully subjugates society, eliminates any autonomous source of power, intervenes in the lives of its inhabitants in every imaginable sphere, commits everybody to agriculture and warfare, and creates thereby the new sociopolitical order. I plan to provide a full translation of the book into English, supplementing it with a comprehensive study its composition and dating, and providing a new analysis of the book’s ideological and historical significance. This study will not only renew the scholarly interest in the long neglected important text, but also to serve as a foundation for the future comprehensive study of the state-society relations in pre-imperial China

The Dynamics of the Evolution of Tantric Traditions in Tibet

Buddhist Monks

Dr. Yael Ben Tor

The creation stage of the Guhyasamāja Tantra

The main objective of my research project is to better comprehend the way the tantric traditions in Tibet crystallized during their classical period.  So far no in depth investigation of the inner logic, coherence and discontinuities of Tibetan tantric traditions during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries has been carried out.  This was the epoch of the systematization of Buddhist thought and practice in Tibet, the peak of exegetical writing activity, when Tibetan scholarship had gained the confidence to assert their own understandings of Buddhist culture imported from India, and to form their own styles of Tibetan Buddhism within the frameworks of a number of schools.  My purpose is to understand the factors that stimulated the creation of coherent and comprehensive systems of thought, specifically in the area of Tantric Buddhism—much less studied than the area of Buddhist philosophy, although these two areas cannot always be neatly segregated. 

The focus of my research is on the creation stage, the Buddhist tantric meditation par excellence, said to transform the yogi into an enlightened being, a Buddha.  In particular the research concentrates on the tantric cycle of the Guhyasamāja Tantra, since it offers the main hermeneutic methods that are applied to other Tantras as well.  I am looking at the works of Tibetan scholars from the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries belonging to different schools on the subject of the soteriological path of the creation stage, and in particular at their conversations—conversations that at times turned into disputes. Among the key figures participating in the movement towards a coherent understanding of Tantric Buddhism systems were the Zhwa-lu-pa Bu-ston, the Sa-skya-pa-s Red-mda'-ba, Rong-ston, Ngor-chen Kun-dga'-bzang-po and Go-rams-pa as well as the Dge-lugs-pa-s Tsong-kha-pa, Mkhas-grub-rje, Nor-bzang-rgya-mtsho and Paṇ-chen Bsod-nams-grags-pa.  Just a few years ago the complete writings of some of these Tibetan scholars were unavailable, but nowadays thanks to the publication of numerous Tibetan books, new areas of research are made possible.  The expected significance of this project is a better understanding the fascinating process of the crystallization of the branch of Buddhism we know as Tibetan tantric Buddhism.