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October 26, 2007

International Religious Scholar Yen-zen Tsai will Visit Campus Nov. 13

His lecture will explore the emergence of comparative religion in China
Yen-zen Tsai, director of the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Cheng-chi University in Taiwan, will present the lecture, “The Current Development of Religious Studies in the Chinese Intellectual World,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104.

According to Eric Ziolkowski, Dana Professor and head of religious studies, the history of religion, better known as comparative religion, had spent decades as a primarily western field of study. However, the discipline now finds scholars in all four corners of the world, including China where it has only recently emerged.

Tsai’s lecture is being made possible through the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and is sponsored by the department of religious studies, under the auspices of the Lyman Coleman Fund. It is free and open to the public.

Tsai is a seasoned scholar with a range of research topics, teaching areas, and experiences organizing and directing a number of academic institutions and associations.

“These experiences helped me think about the meaning of religion and the study of religion as an academic discipline in a concrete Taiwanese context,” says Tsai. “My recent research topic is about human religious experience. I planned to look into this fascinating theme through the theories suggested by Mircea Eliade, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, and Ninian Smart. I hope that after a deeper understanding of this subject, we might rethink Confucian spirituality and accordingly explore one more avenue for inter-religious dialogue.”

Tsai has written over 30 publications and earned several fellowships and awards from various organizations and institutions. These include the National Science Council, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and National Chengchi University. He has served a multitude of academic appointments from professorships, to director positions to guest lectures. Twelve years ago, he moved back to Taiwan where he is currently teaching a variety of courses in comparative religion.

Five years ago, with the financial support from the Taiwan government, he established the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies at National Cheng-chi University, Taipei, which he describes as “the first of its kind in state-funded universities.” He has served as the director ever since while also participating in organizing the Taiwan Association for Religious Studies in 1999, for which he served as president from 2003 to 2005.

Tsai earned a Th.D. in comparative religion and an M.T.S. in Christianity and culture from Harvard Divinity School, an M.A. in Chinese literature and philosophy from UCLA, and a B.A. in English literature at Tunghai University in Taiwan.

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