Whalen Lai


Position Title
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

906 Sproul

Education and Degree(s):

  • B.A., International Christian University, Tokyo
  • Ph.D., Harvard University

Research Interest(s):

  • Focusing on early Chinese Thought and Early Chinese Myth

Course(s) Taught:

  • RST 1: Survey of Religion
  • RST 2: Myth, Ritual, & Symbolism
  • RST 3B: Ghost Stories (Topics in Religious Studies)
  • RST 075: Intro to Chinese Philosophy
  • RST 110: Life, Meaning, & Identity
  • RST 130: Topics in Religious Studies
  • RST 170: Buddhism
  • RST 172: Ch'an Buddhism

Selected Publications:


Book co-edited with Lewis Lancaster, Early Ch’an in China and Tibet. (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1983).

Book co-authored with Michael von Brueck, Buddhismus und Christentum: Geschichte, Konfrontation, Dialog. Munich: Beck, 1997.

Partial translation into English, Christianity and Buddhism: A multicultural history of their dialogue. New York: Orbia, 2001.

Encyclopedia Entries in Encyclopedia of Monasticism, ed. William M. Johnston (Chicago London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000).

Entries on: “Images: Buddhist,” “Conversion/Initiation: Buddhist,” “Scholasticism: Buddhist Spiritual Ladders,” “Master/Disciple: Buddhist,” “Governance: Buddhist,” “Hierocrat: Buddhist,” “Prophethood: Japanese Buddhist,” “Charities/Social Service: Buddhist,” “Gnostic Cosmogony: Buddhist,” “Sacred Topography: Buddhist,” “Intercession for the Dead,” “Economic Justice: Buddhist.”

Encyclopedia Entries on. “Chinese Buddhism,” “Chinese Myth,” “Hui Shih,” “Kung-sun Lung,” “Ma-tsu Tao-i.” in Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, ed. Antonio Cua (New York: Routledge, 2003).

The whole China section in Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, ed. Oliver Leaman (London-New York: Routledge, 2002).


1984. Symbolism of Evil in China: The K'ung-chia Myth Analyzed." History of Religions, 23, 4:316-3 43.

1985. "Ma-tsu Tao-i and the Unfolding of Southern Zen." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, (Special Volume for Heinrich Dumoulin) 12, 4:173-192.

1985 (Paper). "The One-Legged and the Three-Legged." Asian Cultural Studies, (International Christian University, Tokyo) 3, A:67-80.

1986 (Paper). "Dating the Hsiang-fa Chüeh-i Ching." Annual Memoirs of Otani University Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute, 4:61-91.

2004. “The Earth Mother Scripture: Unmasking the Neo-Archaic.…” Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity,, ed. Jacob Olupona (New York: Routledge), pp. 200-213.

2004. “The Origin of Ming Buddhist Schism.” Heterodoxy in Late Imperial China, ed. Kwang-Ching Liu and Richard Shek (Honolulu : University of HawaiiPress), pp. 109-135.

2003. “The Century of the Holy Man in Chinese History (316-439): The Death of Hsuan-Kao,” in Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, (Special section: “In Memory of Masatoshi Nagatomi”) Third series, 5:143-161.