1st International Symposium on Chinese Culture and Religious Concord

Submitted by James Miller on Mon, 01/16/2012 - 22:35
James Miller's picture

The 1st International Symposium on Chinese Culture and Religious Concord and 9th Academic Conference in Memory of Master Han-Ching was held near Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan from December 16-19, 2011. Approximately forty scholars from mainland China, Taiwan and overseas gave presentations broadly related to the theme of “Religious Concord” 宗教大同 in plenary and parallel sessions.

The conference was organized by the Society for the Study of Religion and Philosophy 宗教研究社 (www.ssrp.info), a scholarly association of the Lord of the Universe Church (Tiandi jiao / Tienti chiao 天帝教; www.tienti.info), a new religious movement founded by Lee Yü-chieh 李玉階 (1901-1994). Numerous church volunteers funded, organized and staffed the conference, which took place at the Lei-Li-O 鐳力阿 retreat center, a large compound owned by the Lord of the Universe Church, where Master Lee (also known as Master Han-Ching 涵靜) is buried. The conference featured plenary and parallel sessions, enhanced by excellent simultaneous translation in order to facilitated dialogue between Chinese and non-Chinese scholars. The opening ceremony was presided over by Professor Chü Ko-Yi 巨克毅 (Graduate Institute of International Politics, National Chung Hsing University), who gave the opening address on “Belief in God and Religious Concord in Chinese Culture.” One regrettable absence from the advertised list of opening speakers was Zhuo Xinping 卓新平, Director of the World Religions Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, whose enthusiastic paper was read in absentia.

The contingent of foreign scholars was organized by Professor Robin Wang (Loyola Marymount University), and featured chiefly scholars of Daoist and Confucian philosophy from Europe, North America and South-East Asia, including Hans-Georg Moeller, Brook Zyporin, Geir Sigurðsson, Galia Patt-Shamir and Sor-Hoon Tan to name but some. Topics included Confucian ritual, religious pluralism, Buddhist and Daoist practice, and theology and atheism in Chinese religious philosophy. The relatively small scale of the conference and the generally high caliber of papers and ensured good academic discussions among the presenters.

In keeping with the religious setting, vegetarian and non-alcoholic meals were served in the refectory. Participants also had the opportunity to observe and participate in Tienti services including an evening ceremony held in a prayer hall on the second floor of the conference center, and a morning ceremony held in the Yellow Court (Huangting 黃庭) around the memorial to Master Lee, regarded by Tienti devotees as the “Master Emissary” who conveyed teachings from the Lord of the Universe to humankind for the purpose of averting a cosmic cataclysm brought about by human greed and violence. The morning ceremony ended with an recording of one of Master Lee’s impassioned speeches eerily emanating from loudspeakers around the tranquil garden courtyard.

The closing ceremony and banquet was presided over by Master Lee’s successor, the charismatic octogenarian Li Weisheng 李維生 (Li Ziyi 李子弋), who was the Tienti leader from 1997-2007, and who currently serves as chairman of the Society for the Study of Religion and Philosophy. In his closing speech Master Li advocated the continued sponsoring of similar academic conferences on the theme of religious concord, a key goal advocated by Tienti teachings. A second conference is planned for 2014.