John Kieschnick | curriculum vitae

The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Professor of Buddhist Studies

Department of Religious Studies
Building 70 Main Quad, Room 71J
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2165
Tel. 650-.723.0465

Previous Appointments

Professor, Department of Chinese Culture, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 2011-12
Reader in Buddhist Studies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, UK, 2007-11
Lecturer in Buddhist Studies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, UK, 2005-07
Associate Research Fellow, Institute of History & Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 2001-05
Program Director, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, Taiwan (concurrent to position as Associate Research Fellow at Academia Sinica), 2003-05
Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of History & Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 1996-2001
Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 1995-1996

Academic Qualifications

Ph.D., Department of Asian Languages, Stanford University, 1995
M.A., Department of Asian Languages, Stanford University, with a year of study at Peking University, 1988
B.A., University of California at Berkeley, with a year of study at Shaanxi Normal University in Xian, 1986

Teaching 2014-15

Undergraduate courses 

The Religious Life of Things

Graduate-level courses

Chinese Buddhist Texts
Recent Contributions to Buddhist Studies


Current projects

As part of a three-year project funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, I am currently working together with Marcus Bingenheimer and Chang Boyong to create a new Chinese edition of the Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳, a tenth-century collection of biographies of monks. This project will create a heavily annotated digital version of the text with links to biographical and textual databases as well as links from place names mentioned in the text to both historical maps and Googlemaps. Many pre-modern Chinese texts have been digitalized, but none have explored the possibilities for new critical editions that we will incorporate into our text. It is our hope that this text will serve as a model for how to design future digital editions of pre-modern Chinese historical works. A sample version of the text is available at: In part to insure that our work is preserved, we are also preparing a paper version of the text.

I am writing a monograph on Buddhist historiography in China, tentatively titled The Place of the Past in Chinese Buddhism. The book examines the ways in which Buddhist historians employed Buddhist doctrines like karma and themes like the prophecies of the Buddha to re-evaluate the past. It will further explore the distinctive ways in which Buddhist historians adjudicated between conflicting sources. There is a vast body of scholarship on Chinese historiography, but the focus has been almost entirely on court historiography and local history; despite the large corpus of Chinese Buddhist historical works written between the fifth and twenty-first centuries, the Buddhist contribution to Chinese historiography has not been incorporated into the field. My hope is that after my book appears, future discussions of Chinese historiography will take the Buddhist material into consideration, and that future works on Chinese Buddhism will also highlight the place of historiography in Buddhist intellectual history.



Co-editor (with Meir Shahar) of India in the Chinese Imagination (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

The Eminent Monk: Buddhist Ideals in Medieval Chinese Hagiography (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997)


Articles and Contributions to Edited Volumes


“A History of the Bathhouse in Chinese Buddhist Monasteries,” in Religion and Society: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on Sinology (Taipei: Academia Sinica, Institute of History and Philology, 2003), pp.107-138.

“Buddhism: Biographies of Eminent Monks,” chapter in the Oxford History of Historical Writing, edited by Grant Hardy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp.535-552.

“Guanyu fojiao Hanhua de xingsi” 關於佛教漢化的省思 (Reflections on the sinification of Buddhism), in Chinese, in Lin Fu-shih 林富士 ed., Zhongguo shi xinlun. Zongjiaoshi fence 中國史新論: 宗教史分冊 (Taipei: Lianjing, 2010), pp.259-274.

“Buddhist Monasticism” in John Lagerwey ed., Early Chinese Religion. Part Two (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp.545-574.

“Material Culture,” chapter in John Corrigan ed., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp.223-237.

“Celibacy in East Asian Buddhism,” chapter in Carl Olson ed., Celibacy and Religious Traditions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp.225-240.

“A History of Buddhist Vegetarianism in China,” chapter in Roel Sterckx ed. Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics and Religion in Traditional China (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan Press, 2005), pp.186-212.

少欲知足、一切皆空及莊嚴具足:中國佛教的物質觀 (Reduce desires, the emptiness of all things, and perfect adornment: attitudes toward the material world in Chinese Buddhism), in Chinese, in Hu Suxin 胡素馨ed., Siyuan caifu yu shinu gongyang 寺院財富與世俗供養 (Shanghai: Shanghai Shuhua Chubanshe, 2003), pp.35-47.

“The Role of Buddhism in the History of the Chinese Bridge,” in Economic History,Urban Culture and Material Culture. Papers from the Third International Conference on Sinology, History Section (Taipei: Academia Sinica, Institute of History and Philology, 2003), pp.1-25.

“Blood Writing in Chinese Buddhism,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol.23, no.2 (2000): 177-194.

“The Symbolism of the Monk’s Robe in China,” Asia Major, Third Series, vol.12, no.1 (2000): 9-32.

椅子與佛教流傳的關係  (Buddhism and the History of the Chair) in Chinese, The Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica vol.69, no.4, (1998): 727-761.

“Analects 12.1 and the Commentarial Tradition,” Journal of the American Oriental Society vol.112, no.4 (1992): 567-576.


Translation (from the Chinese) of Li Yuqun, “Buddhist Monasteries: Classification, Layout and Iconography” in John Lagerwey ed., Early Chinese Religion, Part Two (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp.575-738 (sic).

Translation (from the Chinese) of Hou Xudong “The Buddhist Pantheon in the Six Dynasties” in John Lagerwey ed., Early Chinese  Religion, Part Two: The Period of Division (220-589 AD) (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 1095-1168.

Translation (with Regina Llamas, from the French) of Marianne Bujard, “State and Local Cults in Han Religion,” in John Lagerwey and Marc Kalinowski ed. Early Chinese Religion, Part One: Shang through Han (1250 B.C. – 220 A.D. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp.777-811.

“Lives of Eminent Monks and Nuns,” in Donald S. Lopez ed., Buddhist Scriptures (London: Penguin Books, 2004), pp.285-296.

Short works

Entries for “Biographies of Eminent Monks,” “Daoxuan,” “Monks,” and “Miracles” in Robert E. Buswell ed., The Encyclopedia of Buddhism (New York: Macmillan, 2004).

Entries for “Gaoseng zhuan,” “Biqiuni zhuan” and “Xu gaoseng zhuan” for the Six Dynasties Handbook, edited by Albert E. Dien.  Forthcoming, 2013.

Book reviews

Review of Jimmy Yu, Sanctity and Self-Inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions, 1500-1700, in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol.73, no.2, (2013): 378-382.

Review of Robert Ford Campany, Signs from the Unseen Realm. Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Modern China, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol.76, no.1 (2013):161-63.

Review of Paul Katz, Divine Justice. Religion and the Development of Chinese Legal Culture, in Ecclesiastical Law Journal, vol.13, (2011): 114-16.

Review of Christine Mollier, Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face. Scripture, Ritual, and Iconographic Exchange in Medieval China, in Études Chinoises, vol.28 (2009).

Review of T.H. Barrett, The Woman Who Discovered Printing, in Journal of Chinese Religions, vol.36 (2009): 119-121.

Review of Fabio Rambelli, Buddhist Materiality. A Cultural History of Objects in Japanese Buddhism, in History of Religions, vol.49, no.2, (2009): 211-214.

Review of Stephen F. Teiser, Reinventing the Wheel: Paintings of Rebirth in Medieval Buddhist Temples, in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol.69, no.1 (2009): 234-39.

Review of Imre Hamar ed., Reflecting Mirrors. Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism, in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol.62, no.1 (2009): 119-121.

Review of Morten Schlütter, How Zen Became Zen. The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, in Song-Yuan Studies, vol.40, (2009): 150-54.

Review of Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright eds, Zen Classics. Formative  Texts  in the History of Zen Buddhism, in Buddhist Studies Review, vol.24, no.2, (2007): 256-257.

Review of Amy McNair, Donors of Longmen, in Buddhist Studies Review, vol.24, no.2 (2007): 247-250.

Review of John Jorgensen, Inventing Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch. Hagiography and Biography in Early Ch’an, in T’oung Pao, vol.93, (2007): 214-17.

Review of  Xue Yu, Buddhism, War, and Nationalism. Chinese Monks in the Struggle against Japanese Aggressions, 1931-1945, in Buddhist Studies Review, vol.22, no.2, (2006): 208-210.

Review of John Strong, Relics of the Buddha, in The Historian, vol.67, no.4, (2005): 782-783.

Review of Dorothy Wong, Chinese Steles. Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form in Journal of Chinese Religions, vol.33, (2005): 223-224.

Review of Chen Jinhua, Monks and Monarchs, Kinship and Kingship in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol.67, no.1, (2004): 109-112.

Review of Stanley K. Abe, Ordinary Images Journal of Chinese Religions, vol.31, (2003): 185-186.

Review of Marsha Weidner ed., Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism, Journal of Chinese Religions, vol.31, (2003): 305-308.

Review of Chun-fang Yü, Kuan-yin. The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol.62, no.1, (2002): 205-210.

Review of Jeffrey Broughton, The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.121, no.2, (2001): 152-153.

Review of Hao Chunwen 郝春文, Tang houqi Songchu Dunhuang sengni de shehui shenghuo 唐後期宋初敦煌僧尼的社會生活 in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.120, no.3, (2000): 477-78.

Review of Peter Burke, The Art of Conversation, in Chinese, in Xin shi xue 新史學, vol.11, no.1, (2000): 209-213.

Review of Jacques Gernet, Buddhism in Chinese Society, in China Review International, vol.3, no.2, (1996): 418-422.

Review of Kathryn Ann Tsai, Lives of the Nuns: Biographies of Chinese Buddhist Nuns from the Fourth to Sixth Centuries, in China Review International, vol.1, no.2, (1994): 273-275.


Member of the editorial board for Asia Major, 2010-present
Member of the editorial board for Buddhist Studies Review, 2006-2011
Member of the editorial board for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 2005-2007
Managing Editor, Asia Major Third Series. 1997-2010

Public lectures


“On Buddhist Prayer Beads,” for “The Forbidden City” exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 2014.

“Buddhist historiography in China,” two Numata lectures at the University of Toronto and McMaster University, 2014.

“The Interpretation of the Past in Modern Chinese Buddhism,” Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2013.

“On the use of sources in Chinese Buddhist historiography,” United Kingdom Association for Buddhist Studies, Annual Meeting, Leeds, 2010.

“Indian History in Chinese Buddhist Historiography.” Indian Mythology and the Chinese Imagination. Tel Aviv University, March, 2009.

“On the relationship between Buddhist studies in China and in the West” (in Chinese) Keynote address, Young Scholars in Buddhist Studies Conference, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2008.

“Recent Works on Chinese Buddhism” Hwei Tai Seminar in Buddhist Studies,Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, Stanford University. 2008.

“On the Concept of Sinification in the Study of Chinese Buddhism,” Peking University, 2007.

“Buddhist monasticism in early medieval China,” École Pratique des Hautes Études, IVe Section (Sorbonne, Paris), 2007.

“Karma as a historical force in Chinese Buddhist historiography,” Meeting of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (SOAS, London), 2005.

“The Monastic Bathhouse in China,” symposium on monasticism in East Asia (University of Cambridge), 2003.

“The Place of the Past in Chinese Buddhism,” Buddhist Studies Forum, Harvard University, 2001.

“Recent trends in Chinese religion,” Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution and the British Inter-University China Centre, Bath, 2001.

“Buddhism and the history of the Chinese Chair,” Keynote address for annual meeting of the Israel Association for Asian Studies (Tel Aviv), 2000.

Four lectures on the impact of Buddhism on Chinese material culture, École Pratique des Hautes Études, IVe Section (Sorbonne, Paris), 2000.

“A brief history of the Buddhist rosary,” lecture for the East Asian Series at Stanford University, Department of Religious Studies, 1999.

“Blood writing in Chinese Buddhism,” XIIth Conference of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (Lausanne, Switzerland), 1999.

“Recent research on the relationship between religion and material culture,” Symposium on Merit, Opulence and the Buddhist Network of Wealth (Dunhuang Research Institute, Dunhuang, PRC), 1999.

“The symbolism of the monk’s robe in China,” Symposium on Visual Aspects of Chinese Culture (Center for Advanced Studies, Princeton New Jersey), 1999.

“The meat-eating, wine-drinking monks of Chinese hagiography,”  Association for Asian Studies (annual meeting, Washington D.C.), 1996.

“On the interpretation of Analects 12.1,” Regional Meeting of the American Oriental Society, Berkeley California, 1988.