Antonello Palumbo

Antonello Palumbo's picture
Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer in East Asian Studies (October 2021 - June 2022)
Areas of interest : 
History of China from the Warring States to the Tang (4th c. BCE – 10th c. CE); Buddhism; Taoism; World History in Late Antiquity; History and Theory of Religion, Nation, State, and Empire.

Antonello Palumbo researches the religious, social and political history of premodern China in its connections to the Old World system. Buddhism and Taoism have long been among his key interests. He has studied in China (Peking University), Italy (where he holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from the former Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples) and Japan (Kyoto University). From 2005 to 2020 he was first Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in the Religions of China at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of An Early Chinese Commentary on the Ekottarika-āgama: The Fenbie gongde lun 分別功德論 and the History of the Translation of the Zengyi ahan jing 增一阿含經 (Taipei: Fagu Wenhua, 2013) and of many articles and essays. His current research focuses on the parallel formation of translocal religious communities and imperial polities in China during the first millennium of the Common Era. His work in progress includes two book manuscripts in preparation, respectively on the nationalization of Buddhism in mid-Tang religious policies and on the early history of Heavenly Master Taoism, as well as a number of studies on the early history of Buddhism in China.


EAST 407, RLST 132

Empire and Religion in China, 1–1000 CE

Although premodern China is often imagined as imperial, a unified empire was a contested norm at best through most of the first millennium CE. From the end of the Han no center could wield suzerain power and tributary reach over a China-wide periphery, and a revival of empire from the end of the sixth century did not last beyond the mid-Tang. This age also saw the rise of unprecedented forms of religious organizations and ideologies extending their appeal beyond the local community, what we call today Buddhism and Taoism. Their translocal claims to different kinds of sacred authority would compete with the universalism of the imperial institution. But how exactly? And with what results? This course addresses these questions. It starts and ends by reassessing the key notions—Empire, Religion, China—and in between follows their shifting referents from the Han to the Tang. It thus explores such topics as the imperial conception, the formation of the tributary state, the Buddhist monastic ideal, Heavenly Master Taoism, the confrontation between the Buddhist community and the imperial elite, and more.

Term: Spring 2022
Day/Time: Th 1:30 PM - 3:20 PM