Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities

Jonathan Silk

Professor, LIAS

Areas of interest

Buddhist scripture editions; databases; collation (manual and automatic, machine learning) of Buddhist scriptural corpora

Current projects

ERC Advanced Grant “Open Philology”; the goal of this project is the provision of an electronic corpus of the scriptures of the Maharatnakuta collection of Mahayana Buddhist Scriptures in Chinese, Tibetan and, where available, Sanskrit, facilitating their study in a format that does not presuppose an ur-text.


Silk studied East Asian Studies at the Oberlin College in Ohio and Buddhist Studies at the University of Michigan, where he obtained his PhD in 1994.

During his studies, Silk spent several years in Japan. After his PhD, he became Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College in Iowa and in 1995 at the Department of Comparative Religion of Western Michigan University. From 1998 until 2002 he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University, and from 2002 in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Since 2007 he has been Professor in the study of Buddhism at Leiden. In 2010 he was awarded a VICI grant from the NWO (Dutch National Science Foundation) for project: “Buddhism and Social Justice.” In 2016 he was elected as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [KNAW]), and in 2017 his project on “OpenPhilology” was funded by the European Research Council Advanced Grants scheme.

Silk’s scientific orientation on Buddhism is very broad, in time as well as geographically: his interest covers the oldest primary sources and the rise of Buddhist communities all over Asia, but he is equally interested in the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia. Silk reads Sanskrit, Pāli, , Classic Tibetan, Classic Chinese, and Japanese.

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