Monasteries in Cross-Cultural Developments

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Welcome to the World of Buddhist Architecture! 

In this course, you will start a great journey across the diversity of Asia’s cultural past in space and time. 


You will be introduced how Buddhism and its teachings gave birth to cave temples, pagodas, monasteries, gardens, sculptures, and paintings.


You will explore how Buddhist monastery serves as a living place of members of the monastics, a worship center, a secluded hermitage, and a contemplative landscape. 


You will look into a wide range of issues unfolding the richness of Buddhist built environment in historical and cross-cultural perspectives.


Last but not least, you will participate in experiential workshops and study trips in Tsz Shan, one of Hong Kong’s most beautiful Buddhist monastery with great sceneries of mountain-water landscape.

Course Team

Professor Weijen Wang, Department of Architecture                              Email: wjwang@hku.hk


Dr. Zhu Xu, Department of Architecture          

Email: zhuxu@hku.hk


Lecture Topics


Experiential Workshops

The Course and Tsz Shan Monastery organized experiential workshops to facilitate the teaching and learning process, including guided tours in Hong Kong’s spiritual monastic sites, Buddhist art and architecture museums, as well as practices of walking and seated meditations led by members of monastic community.

Tsz Shan.jpg

Guided Tour to Spiritual Monastic Site

Tsz Shan Monastery and Chi Lin Nunnery is two prominent Buddhist monasteries in Hong Kong that are built in Tang-Liao architectural style. The guided tour allows students to have a personal experience and deeper understanding of the ninth-century Chinese Buddhist space.

chi lin.jpg

Study Trips to Buddhist Art-Architecture 


Chi Lin Nunnery has a gallery that exhibits physical models of early Chinese Buddhist architecture, and Tsz Shan Monastery runs an art museum with rich collections of Buddhist artworks from India, China, and Japan. Thus A wide range of physical material can be introduced to student to enhance the teaching.


Walking and Seated Meditation in Tsz Shan Monastery

Students will be guided by monastic priests to practice walking and seated meditation in Tsz Shan Monastery. The practice allows an in-depth integration of Buddhist built space and spiritual world in the teaching-learning process.

Student Works

Students are required to form groups of 2-3 persons within their tutorial class, and pick up a specific topic from the provided list of topics to conduct a detailed study. In addition, In addition, they are required to complete an independent essay based on the data/information collected in the group work. The essay is expected to be an elaboration on a certain particular aspect of the presented topic, or a new topic generated from the group study. Here are some sample research works from previous teaching for reference.

Sample 1

Beamless Hall in Mt. Wutai

Sample 2

​Patronage of Buddhist Construction in Hong Kong

Sample 3

Iconographic Significance of Eleven-Headed Guanyin 

Sample 4

Organizing Mount Wutai

Sample 5

Feminization of Zen Art


Recommended Textbooks


Béguin, Gilles. Buddhist Art: A Historical and Cultural Journey. Bangkok, Thailand: River Books. 2009.


Boyd, Andrew. "Religious and Funerary Buildings." in Chinese Architecture and Town Planning 1500 B.C. – 1911 A.D. London: Alec Tiranti. 1962.


Fu, Xinian. "Early Buddhist Architecture in China." in Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 2017.


Leidy, Denise Patry. The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to its History and Meaning. Boston: Shambhala, 2008. 


Mitra, Debala. Buddhist Monuments. Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1971. (Pages 8–56).


Prip-Møller, J. Chinese Buddhist Monasteries: Their Plan and Its Functions as a Setting for Buddhist Monastic Life. London: Oxford University Press, 1937. (Chapters one and two, Pages 1–195).


Rowland, Benjamin. The Art and Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu and Jain. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. 1970. (Pages 24-152).


Robert E. Fisher, Buddhist Art and Architecture (London: Thames & Hudson, 1993).

Further Readings


Alexander, André. The Temples of Lhasa: Tibetan Buddhist Architecture from the 7th to the 21st Centuries. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2005.


Bandaranayake, Senake. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture: the Viháras of Anurádhapura. Leiden: Brill. 1974.


Clunas, Craig. "Art in the Temple." in Art in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.


Dehejia, Vidya. Indian Art. London: Phaidon, 1997


Inoue, Mitsuo. Space in Japanese Architecture. New York: Weatherhill, 1985.


Inaji, Toshiro. The Garden as Architecture: Form and Spirit in the Gardens of Japan, China, and Korea. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1998.


Liang, Sicheng. A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture: A Study of the Development of its Structural System and the Evolution of its Types. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1984.


Pichard, Pierre, and F. Lagirarde. 2003. The Buddhist Monastery: A Cross-cultural Survey. Paris: École française d'extrême-orient.


Soper, Alexander. The Evolution of Buddhist Architecture in Japan. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1978.


Sickman, L., and and Alexander Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1956.


Slusser, Mary Shepherd. Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu, Nepal: Mandala Book Point. 1998.




王維仁,徐翥. "中國早期寺院配置的形態演變初探:塔·金堂·法堂·閣的建築形制. " 南方建築(4), 2011, (Pages 38–49).



Useful Websites


​Tsz Shan Buddhist Art Museum


The Life of the Buddha, from Little Buddha, a Bernardo Bertolucci movie


Monastic Life of Japanese Zen Monks


Academic writings




For general questions about the nature, content and philosophy of course, and how we deliver the course including about Moodle, assessments and schedules.

Dr. Zhu XU: Teacher 

Email: zhuxu@hku.hk