Universiteit Leiden

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Buddhist Aspects of Health and Wellness in Premodern Chinese Tea Culture

  • James A. Benn
Thursday 7 December 2017
Old Observatory
Sterrenwachtlaan 11
2311 GW Leiden

Buddhist ideas, institutions and individuals were influential in the creation of Chinese tea culture from at least the eighth century onwards. Given that tea was often promoted by Buddhists as an alternative to alcohol, and that it was extolled for its abilities to support strenuous meditation practice, were there particular Buddhist discourses of health and wellness with regard to tea drinking?

In this lecture, organized by Studium Generale, Honours Academy Leiden and Humanities Lab, we will explore the surviving textual, artistic and material evidence in order to understand better some of the virtues of tea consumption from a Chinese Buddhist perspective.


James A. Benn received his PhD from UCLA in 2001 and is now Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions at McMaster University. He studies Buddhism and Daoism in medieval China. To date, he has focused on three major areas of research: bodily practice in Chinese Religions; the ways in which people create and transmit new religious practices and doctrines; and the religious dimensions of commodity culture. He has published on self-immolation, spontaneous human combustion, Buddhist apocryphal scriptures, and tea and alcohol in medieval China in journals such as History of Religions, T’oung Pao, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies and Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. He is the author of Burning for the Buddha: Self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007) and Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007). He is currently working on a translation and study of the Śūramgama sutra, a Chinese Buddhist apocryphon.

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Entrance is free.
No prior registration required.

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