William Powell

Emeritus Professor
Ph.D., UC Berkeley
Chinese Religions


William Powell is an active member of two departments, Religious Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies. He was trained in the philological methods of Buddhist studies, which was the basis for his translation and study of the prominent 9th century Chan (Zen) monk, Dong shan. This will be followed by a study of Dong shan’s disciple, Cao shan. His present work focuses on the relationship between Chinese Buddhism, pilgrimage and sacred space, particularly mountains. This work places emphasis on modes of spatial perception rooted in religious understandings, and the role of those modes of perception in economic, social, and ecological systems. This work has led to an involvement in digital simulations of sacred geography and topography, both as a means of scholarly analysis and as a pedagogic device for teaching about the relatively complex notions that emerge from such analysis at the undergraduate level.

Selected Articles:

  • “The Silk Road.” The Oxford Companion to Archeology. London: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • “Silk Road Interactive Data Base,” UCSB Instructional Development, 1993.
  • “Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism.” The Ten Directions. Los Angeles: The Koroda Institute, 1990.
  • “Jiuhua Mountain–the Nine Florate Realm of Dicang Bodhisattva.” Asian Cultural Studies 16, Tokyo: Inter-Christian University, 1987.
  • The Record of Tung-shan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

Courses Taught:

  • Religion in Chinese Culture (Chinese 166A)
  • Religion in Chinese Culture (Chinese 166A)
  • Confucian Traditions – The Classical Period (Chinese 166C)
  • The Flowering of Chinese Buddhism (Chinese 166E)
  • Religious Literature in Chinese – Buddhist Texts (Chinese 166F)
  • Religious Literature in Chinese – Confucian Texts (Chinese 166G)
  • Religious Literatures in Chinese – Taoist Texts (Chinese 166H)
  • The Quest for Narrative in Late Imperial China (Comparative Literature 183)
  • Introduction to Asian Religious Traditions (EACS 3; Religious Studies 3)
  • Buddhist Traditions in East Asia (EACS 164B)
  • The Body Religious in Chinese Culture (EACS 178)
  • Topics in East Asian Buddhist Thought (EACS 259)