Asian Religions

Associated Faculty:

Jonathan C. Gold

Bryan D. Lowe

Stephen F. Teiser


The Asian Religions subfield emphasizes the study of Asian religions in their historical, intellectual, and cultural contexts. Students normally specialize in one cultural area (e.g., India, Tibet, China, or Japan), but are still expected to gain a general knowledge of all major Asian traditions.

The current strengths of the program are based on faculty specializations. Jonathan C. Gold specializes in Buddhist philosophical traditions in India and Tibet, including medieval Tibetan scholasticism and classical Indian Yogācāra. Bryan D. Lowe works on Japanese religions, with particular focus on Buddhism in the ancient period. Stephen F. Teiser works on Chinese religion, with special emphasis on Buddhism during the medieval period and popular religion.

A typical General Examination in Asian Religions consists of four parts:

  1. a major field (e.g., religions of India, Tibet, China, or Japan)
  2. a minor field covering religion in other cultural area(s) in Asia
  3. an outside field in another subfield within the department or another discipline
  4. a more specialized essay laying the groundwork for a dissertation proposal

Students in this subfield work closely with faculty in other departments, including Anthropology (Ryo Morimoto, Jerry C. Zee), Art and Archaeology (Cheng-hua Wang, Andrew Watsky), Comparative Literature (Thomas Hare), East Asian Studies (Amy Borovoy, Thomas Conlan, Martin Kern, Paize Keulemans, Federico Marcon, Anna Shields, Brian Steininger, Xin Wen), History (He Bian, Janet Chen, Divya Cherian, Sheldon Garon, Michael Laffan, and Gyan Prakash), and Philosophy (Harvey Lederman).

Course work and research using advanced language skills (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, or Japanese) are essential beginning in the first year of study. Before entering the program most applicants have completed at least two years of formal study, usually more, of their primary language. Various units of the university (Program in East Asian StudiesPrinceton Institute for International and Regional Studies, etc.) offer financial support for summer language study and research beyond that available from the Graduate School.