RELIGION 118 - Dr. Rennie

Fall 2015

Schedule of Classes:
Religion 118 will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 - 12:30 in Patterson Hall 208.
The schedule of assignments, quizzes, etc. remains negotiable until week 9. Changes must be made before this date.

Office Hours:
I will be available in my office in Patterson 336 Monday and Friday from 10:30 to 1:30, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 to 11:00, and by arrangement.


Date: 9/1 | 9/8 | 9/15 | 9/22 | 9/29 | 10/6 | 10/13 | 10/20 | 10/29 | 11/3 | 11/10 | 11/17 | 12/1 | 12/8 |12/14
Click the date to see the week.

Chen Hongshou, The Four Joys of Nan Sheng-lu (1649)

Week 1 - Introduction: Who are the Chinese and what is Religon?

Tues. 9/1
Introduction to the course: the class description, the webpage, textbooks, and additional readings. The Problem of defining religion - especially Chinese religion. Consider Sommer's Chinese Religion page vii and Thompson's Chinese Religion “introduction” and pages 80 and 124. An introduction to the idea of dimensional models of religion and their application to the Chinese context.

Assignment: Your constant and ongoing assignment is to take notes on the material discussed in class. These notes will be indispensable in both answering the quiz questions and in preparing the written work for your papers. The instructor might ask to look at your notes randomly at any time and points will be subtracted if they are inadequate.

Thur. 9/3 Who are the Chinese? Language, Culture, and Geography.
See these notes on the transliteration of Chinese into English.
Classics of Chinese scripture.

Make sure that you know the location of China. See these maps (1) & (2).

Week 2 - Our Study of Chinese Religion, continued.

Tues. 9/8 Why not start with a simple definition of religion?
Can we really understand another religion, especially from a foreign culture? The “phenomenology” and “heterophenomenology” of religion. Chris Arthur, “Phenomenology and the Art of Story-telling,” and Herbert Fingarette, Confucius-The Secular as Sacred as an example of heterophenomenology;  See “Notes from Fingarette.doc” on D2L. Consider li, ch'ih, and jen.

Thur. 9/10 Continuing our consideration of Fingarette's analysis of these important early Chinese ideas: How do they relate to Laurence G. Thompson's application of Frederick Streng's understanding of religion as a means of “ultimate transformation” (see Thompson's Chinese Religions p. 80). Consider also the article on “The Confucian Tradition: A Confucian Perspective On Learning To Be Human,” by Tu Wei-ming (D2L).

Sima Qian (Ssu-Ma Chien) from Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, p. 149 (Doubleday, 1994) Week 3 - An Introduction to the Historical Background: from pre-history to the end of the Former Han. See Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe (based mainly on the Annals of the Historian by Sima Qian, see Ebrey, 67).

See this map from the Perry-Castaneda Library map collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

Tues. 9/15 - Gonick, pages 53-110. Prehistory to Confucius to the advent of the First Emperor. For primary sources from this period, see Sommer 3 - 48. Don't forget about taking notes.

Thur. 9/17 - Gonick, pages 110-150. The rise of the Han to the writing of Sima Qian's (Ssu-Ma Chien's) History. See also Sommer 101 - 116.

Week 4 - Archaic Chinese Religion.

Tues. 9/22 Archaic Chinese Religion:
“The Early Chinese Worldview” (Thompson's Chinese Religions, “Introduction” and chapter one).
The Classical Chinese Scriptures.
See Sommer 3- 39, and 49 - 70.
Reading and discussion of some primary texts, including excerpts from Sima Qian's (Ssu-Ma Chien's) Shi-ji (Historical Records).

Thur. 9/24 “Prescientific Theory and Religious Practice” (Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter two).

Han Empire, from Patricia Ebrey's Cambridge Illustrated History of China.
Click for full-sized image.

Week 5 - Archaic Chinese Religion: continued.

Tues. 9/29 Discussion: Preparation for the quiz.

Thur. 10/1 QUIZ #1, see also the recommended vocabularly for the course.

Week 6 - Archaic Chinese Religion: continued.

Tues. 10/6 The Family: Kindred and Ancestors (Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter three) and
Gods and Temples.ppt.
“The Community: Gods and Temples” (Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter four).
Keep taking notes.

Thur. 10/8 “The State: Emperor and Officials” (Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter five).

Tao Lao Tzu

Week 7 - Taoism (Daoism). See Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter six and Sommer 71 - 83.

Tues. 10/13 Taoism.ppt. “The Taoist tradition” (Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter six).

Thur. 10/15 Video: Taoism: A Question of Balance and review.

The topic and thesis of your paper should be determined by this time. Please submit a title and a brief (c. 50 words) outline of the thesis of your proposed paper.


Week 8 - Buddhism:
The Introduction of a Foreign Tradition.
See Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter eight and Sommer 119 - 154.

Tues. 10/20 Chinese_Buddhism.ppt. Basic Buddhism and its appeal in China.

Thur. 10/22 Ch'an, T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen, and Ching-t'u (Pure Land) Buddhism.

Confucius (Kung Fu Tzu) Kung Fu Tzu
Mid-Term Break: Saturday October 24th through Tuesday 27th.

Week 9 - Confucianism: The Tradition of the Literati. See Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter seven and Sommer 41 - 48. See here for versions of The Analects of Confucius.

"At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.
"At thirty, I stood firm.
"At forty, I had no doubts.
"At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.
"At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.
"At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right."
The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu), 2:4.

Thur. 10/29 - Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapter seven.

Week 10 - Video and Review.

Tues. 11/3 - Video: The Last Emperor, part One and discussion.

Thur. 11/5 - Video: The Last Emperor, part Two.

Week 11 - Video and Review

Tues. 11/10 - Video: The Last Emperor, part Three. Review and discussion.

Thur. 11/12 - Video: Conclusion and discussion.
Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapters nine and ten: Cults and Sects and the Festival Year.

You must submit an initial bibliography for your term paper today. This should contain at least five appropriate sources with a brief (no more than 50 words) description of the contents of each source.
You must have at least as many print sources as you have Internet sources!
You may submit these bibliographies as an e-mail attachment but the D2L dropbox is preferred.
Submit before the end of the day (4:30) on Friday.

Week 12 - Thompson's Chinese Religions, chapters nine and ten, continued. Other Traditions in the Far East.

Tues. 11/17 - QUIZ #2, see also the recommended vocabulary for the course.

Thur. 11/19 - Religion in the Far East and Other Religions from Outside China: Islam and Christianity. Read Thompson ch. 11. See the documents on D2L.

Tues. 11/24 - No Class. Prof. Rennie will be at the American Academy of Religion Conference.
Thanksgiving Break: Wednesday November 25th through Sunday November 29th.

Week 13 - Contemporary Religion in China. 

Note that you may submit a rough draft of your essay to be checked on or before 12/4.

Tues. 12/1 - The Disruption and Continuity of Traditions: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. (Thompson Chs. 11 & 12 & Sommer 281 - 316.)
Communism in China and the contemporary situation.

Thur. 12/3 - Contemporary Religion in China. (Sommer 317 - 348.)
You can hand in a draft of your paper to be checked on or before Friday, 12/4.

Week 14 -
Student oral presentations.

Students will be asked to grade their fellow students' presentations.
See the handout on D2L for criteria useful for grading these presentations.

Tues. 12/8 - Student oral presentations of essay topics and theses: Marissa Pursel; Nolan Stokes; Bailey Bennett; Rylie Shaw; Emily Broderick; Tim Savage; Bailey Frisco; Kelsey Phillips.

Thurs. 12/10 - Student oral presentations of essay topics and theses: Gabriel Danko; Matt Getsy; Savannah Goldbach; Joe Grice; Allison Hamilton; Zac Hynus; Niko Santarcangelo.
I will hand out and explain the take-home final in this class.

Your essays are due in tomorrow, Friday 12/11.
Please make sure that you submit them to the D2L Dropbox no later than 4:00.  

Week 15 - Final Week

The take-home final should be submitted to the D2L Dropbox by 4:00 pm on Friday, December 18th.
You must await my acknowledgement that I have received it.
No excuses about missing finals will be accepted
Finals period December 14th through 17th
Monday through Friday.
Term ends Friday, December 17th.


All students will submit a properly word-processed critical essay of 8-10 pages (double spaced, that is between 2,000 and 2,500 words). This paper is due in on Thursday, December 10th.

You are required to obtain the approval of the instructor for your paper topic by Thursday, October 15th.

You are required to submit an annotated bibliography for your paper by Thursday, November 12th. This should contain at least five appropriate sources with a brief (no more than 50 words) description of the contents of each source. You must have at least as many print sources as you have Internet sources!

These are not reports but argumentative essays: that is to say they are editorialism rather than journalism--your own views are as essential as knowledge of your subject material. The standard of your technical writing as well as your accuracy and argument will be taken into consideration. To that end, here is a short list of common avoidable writing errors which should help you to avoid simple mistakes which will otherwise reduce your grade.

Papers cannot be accepted after the due date (Thursday, December 10th).

You may submit a rough draft of your paper to be checked anytime up to Thursday December 3rd.

General requirements of an argumentative essay .

1. Papers must have a title which states the topic of your essay. In order to maintain the focus on Religions from East Asia as the topic of this course your papers should be entitled "Religions from China: . . . " with your topic or focus following the colon. Papers must be appropriately formatted using a word-processor.

2. You must have a thesis, argument, and a conclusion. "Thesis" is defined as "a proposition laid down or stated, especially as a theme to be discussed or proved" (Oxford English Dictionary). You must explain to your reader why you believe that your thesis is correct, and clearly state the conclusion of your thought. This is mainly to help you to focus your thoughts.

3. The arguments and research which support your thesis should make the main body of the essay.

4. Source material (books, but don't forget articles in journals and encyclopedias, even newspapers and personal interviews) should be integrated into your argument as evidence, example, or illustration. You MUST document the sources of all quotations, statistical information, and paraphrased material. In-text citations should have the form: (Author x), where x is the page number. Bibliographic information must be included in a Works Cited or References page at the end of the paper.

5. Your conclusions must be clearly stated. They can be negative as well as positive. Don't worry if you find that your original thesis is insupportable. As long as your conclusion is based on your research negative results areas valuable as positive ones. Just re-write your introduction to reflect your results.

6. You must give a separate list of sources (entitled "References" or "Bibliography" or "Works Cited") at the end of your paper. In alphabetical order give the full name of each author, surname first, then first name, followed by the title of the work. Book and journal titles should be italicized (underlining should be avoided and used only if italics are not available, as in hand- or typewritten manuscripts). Article titles should be in quotation marks. Details of publication must be included. For example:

Batson, C. Daniel and W. L. Ventis. The Religious Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Ferré, Frederick. "The Definition of Religion." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 38, no.1 (1970): 3-16.

Fieser, James (Ed.), The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, July 10th, 1996.

(For Internet sources the minimum required information is author name, URL --that is the "http://filename/etc.htm"--and the date you took it from the Internet. If you do not know the author, you must say so, for example:

Author Unknown. "Cilicia," 01/01/2006. Or
Rennie, Bryan. "Classical Chinese Scriptures," 11/10/2015.

REMEMBER: You must have at least as many print (that is, peer-reviewed and published) sources as you have Internet (that is independently published) sources!

Your bibliography does not count as part of your length (2,500 words as stated above).