Papers and Presentations

REL 118 is an introductory course and will be taught as introductory to the subject. A chronological survey will introduce students to indigenous Chinese religion and philosophy beginning in the Classical or pre-Confucian period (10th century BCE). There will be a brief introduction to the texts of that period and their major concepts. The development of the Confucian and Daoist traditions from their earlier forebears will be considered (6th century BCE). The introduction of Buddhism into China and its subsequent adaptations to the Chinese environment will be discussed (1st century CE). The interactions of the three traditions (San Chiao) in China will receive especial consideration. These traditions continued to interact without substantial outside influence until the European incursions of the modern period. The development of Chinese Communism in the contemporary period will be given close consideration with focus on the possibility of regarding Marxism as a competing religio-philosophical tradition.

Required reading:

Gonick, Larry, The Cartoon History of the Universe, Vols. 8-13. (New York, Doubleday, 1994. This is a 300 pp. cartoon history which devotes almost one-third of its content to a pictorial reproduction of Ssu-ma Chien’s Historical Records (Ssu-Ma Chien, also transliterated Sima Qian, lived from 145 BCE until about 85 BCE).

Sommer, Deborah, Chinese Religion: An Anthology of Sources, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

Thompson, Lawrence G. Chinese Religion: an Introduction, (San Francisco: Wadsworth, 1996).

Other readings will be provided by the instuctor.

Recommended reading:

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, Cambridge University Press, 2007. (Several copies of this volume are on reserve in McGill Library.)

Wing-tsit Chan, A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963). This comprises over 800 pages of Chinese philosophical works, arranged in chronological order, and each introduced by a well-informed commentary.

Earhart, H. Byron, Japanese Religion, (New York: Wadsworth, 1982).

Fingarette, Herbert, Confucius--The Secular as Sacred, (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

Ames, Roger and David Hall, Thinking Through Confucius, (Albany: SUNY Press, 1987).


The aims of this course are firstly to acquire the basic information and skills of the study of Chinese religion. This requires a knowledge of the history of Chinese religion along with some critical understanding of what "religion" is taken to be. Various theories of religion will be considered as tools for the construction of relevant and durable opinions about Chinese religion, which is often confusing and uncertain. The skills required to communicate those opinions clearly and persuasively will be practiced.

So-the acquisition, the analysis, the assessment, and the articulation of information will all be practiced and evaluated.

All student work should be well-researched, well-reasoned, and well-written

The successful student in this course will demonstrate their abilities:


Attendance and participation will constitute 10% of the grade, repeated absences will not only lose these percentage points but will finally result in a subtraction of points earned elsewhere.

Students will be required to take notes in class, which will be periodically and randomly inspected by the instructor. These notes will be graded up to 10% of the course. Earlier low grades can be expunged by later improved grades. That is to say, if a student gets a C on their first inspection, but an A on the second, they will not earn an averaged grad of B, but will earn the later A.

Quizzes (x 3 @ 10%) will be held to ensure that the required reading is being properly done and the material understood. These will constitute a combined total of 30% of the grade.

Final Examination. There will be a final worth 15% (There is no midterm exam).

The Monks Visit. During week eight of the course there will be a group of Tibetan Buddhist Monks on campus who will construct a ritual sand mandala in the foyer of McKelvey Center and give evening performances of “the sacred and healing arts of Tibet.” They will also visit our classroom for lectures and discussion. All students will be required to design a small research program involving the presence of this group. Fundamentally, students must generate a question that can be answered by observation of or interaction with the Monks. Research projects must be designed and approved by the instructor by Thursday October 10th. The length and format of the research report will be variable, depending on the design of the research program, but will be worth 10% of the total grade. This research program may be combined with the term paper and/or the oral presentation, although this is not required. Two of the best reports resulting from this research will be presented at Westminster URAC.

Term Paper. All students will submit a word-processed critical essay of 2,000 to 2,500 words (that is, roughly 8-10 pages, double spaced), due in on Thursday, December 5th. Your bibliography does NOT count as part of the word-length of your paper. Students will have the whole of the semester to work on this paper and it will be their major opportunity to improve and display their potential. In order to maintain an acceptable level of technical writing, students are asked to consider the information on this website. This paper will constitute 15% of the grade. Rough drafts of this paper can be submitted to me for comments and corrections up to Wednesday, November 27th (one week before the final due date). The topic of this paper will be selected by each student and approved by me no later than week seven. (I can provide a list of sample essay topics but I much prefer that students use their own imagination in the selection of their topic.) An annotated bibliography must be turned in by week eleven. Bibliographies should include a minimum of five acceptable sources. If only five sources are cited, then no more than two Internet sources should be used. In any case there must always be at least as many print as Internet sources used.

Students will give short (c. 10 minutes) oral presentations of their papers to the class for peer review during weeks thirteen and fourteen. The smart classroom facilities will be available to enhance and support the oral presentation of your material and students will grade their fellow students' presentations, which will be worth 10%. See your handouts on My.Westminster for "Criteria" useful for grading these presentations.