Faculty & Staff
Paul Copp , Ph.D.
Associate Professor in Chinese Religion and Thought, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College; Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, associated faculty in the Divinity School.
Teaching and Research Interests:
Intellectual, material, and visual cultures of Chinese religion, ca. 700-1200; Dunhuang manuscripts and manuscriptology; the history of religions.
My research focuses on the history of religious practice in China during the eighth through the twelfth centuries. In particular, I have a strong interest in exploring surviving material sources (manuscripts, amulets, archaeological sites, etc) for the practices of Chinese Buddhism in this period. My graduate seminars focus on the philological close reading of texts in their historical (and often material) contexts, on methods for the use of manuscripts and archaeological remains in the study of pre-modern religious practice, as well as on critical engagement with the fields of Sinology and the history of religions.
My first book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (in press, Columbia), is a study of the nature and history of Buddhist incantatory and amuletic practices in Tang China centered in archaeological evidence. At present, my main project is a paleographical and material-historical study of the worlds of anonymous ninth and tenth century Chinese Buddhists whose practices, ritual and scribal, are evidenced by manuscript handbooks and liturgies discovered among the cache of materials from Dunhuang, a key city on the eastern end of the “Silk Roads.” Its working title is “Seal, Talisman, and Scroll: Vernacular Buddhism and Manuscript Culture at Dunhuang.”
- The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism. (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2014)
- “Manuscript Culture as Ritual Culture in Late Medieval Dunhuang: Buddhist Seals and Their Manuals.” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 20 (2011 [published 2013]), 193-226.
- “Anointing Phrases and Narrative Power: A Tang Buddhist Poetics of Incantation.” History of Religions 52.2 (2012), 142-172.
- "Altar, Amulet, Icon: Transformations in Dhāraṇī Amulet Culture, 740-980." Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 17 (2008 [published 2010]): 239-264.
- "Notes on the Term 'Dhāraṇī' in Medieval Chinese Buddhist Thought." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 71, 3 (2008), 493–508.
- "Esoteric Buddhism in Song Dynasty Sichuan," "Dhāraṇī Scriptures," "Prajña (744 - ca. 810)," and "Visualization and Contemplation," in Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, ed. Charles Orzech, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
- Readings in Literary Chinese (i.e. second year Literary Chinese)
- Readings in Chinese Buddhist Texts
- Readings in Tang and Song Texts
- Dunhuang Studies
- Manuscripts, Material Culture, and Ritual Practice
- Sources and Methods in the Study of Chinese Buddhism
- Self-Cultivation and the Way in Traditional Chinese Religious Thought
- Spells, Talismans, Alchemy, Zen: Language and Religious Practice in Premodern China and Japan
- Chinese Buddhism
- Daoism and Chinese Religion