Michael Radich

Ideas about ‘Consciousness’ in Third- to Sixth-Century China, and the Problem of ‘Sinification’ in the Study of Buddhist Ideas

  • Time: Fr., 4. Dez., 13:00-15:00
  • Venue: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 2
  • Organisation: Birgit Kellner (IKGA)


In this lecture, I will present an overview of several interrelated pieces of research on ideas about various types of “consciousness” (vijñāna, shi 識) in the development of Chinese Buddhism between the third and sixth centuries. These ideas are of interest, in part, as a case study on the problem of the so-called “sinification” of Chinese Buddhist ideas. The rubric of “sinification” refers to a process whereby various aspects of Buddhism supposedly adapted themselves to the Chinese cultural environment and thereby became more typically “Chinese”, and this rubric was central and vital in the study of Chinese Buddhism in earlier generations of Western scholarship. More recently, the rubric appears to be moribund, if not already dead; and for various reasons (some good), scholars tend to regard the problem itself to be passé. I will close my talk with some more general reflections on this situation in the study of Chinese Buddhism and argue that the construction of an approach and methods to revitalise the study of changes undergone by Buddhism as it entered China, and thereby to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the “sinification” paradigm, is an urgent task for the field.


Michael Radich is the author of two monographs, How Ajātaśatru Was Reformed: The Domestication of "Ajase" and Stories in Buddhist History (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 2011) and The Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra and the Emergence of Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine (Hamburg University Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, 2015); and the co-editor of A Distant Mirror: Articulating Indic Ideas in Sixth and Seventh Century Chinese Buddhism (Hamburg University Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, 2014). He holds an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers and with this support is spending 2015 on research leave at the University of Hamburg. He teaches at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.