Pilgrim Monk and Tiger

The pilgrim monk and his tiger companion in a stupa near Kaifeng, China

Project (2018-)

The Changing Cosmology and Knowledge of the Tiger Lands in Buddhist Asia

In contrast to the lion, the tiger retains a relatively marginal position in the current academic landscape. Given the prominent position of the tiger in the ecological and cultural atmosphere of the vast Asian continent, this project maintains that it would be interesting to examine how South Asian Buddhists and Chinese Buddhists developed their everyday knowledge about tigers, and how their knowledge and experience with tigers differed on account of the fact that they encountered different species of tigers in different ecological contexts. As attested in early Buddhist literature and Chinese Buddhist literature, tigers played different roles in shaping history, doctrines, rituals, and medicine in early Buddhism and East Asian (and especially Chinese) Buddhism. This project aims to explore how different Buddhist communities in South and East Asia developed their respective cosmologies and knowledge about tigers on the basis of their interactions with, respectively, Bengal and South China tigers; the environmental implications of these different cosmologies and knowledge about tigers; and how these different cosmologies and knowledge about tigers shaped Buddhist culture and life. In general, this project will be of interest to scholars in the history of science, environmental history, cultural studies, religious studies, and Asian studies.

Pilgrim Monk and Tiger

The pilgrim monk and his tiger companion in a stupa near Kaifeng, China