|Office:||Comparative Religious Studies Program, San Jose State Univ.|
|Office Address:||San Jose, CA 95192 USA|
(Aug 1, 1994)
My interest in Asian religions stems from experiences in the counter-cultural environment of a California college during the late 1 960s, which led me to develop certain personal as well as academic interests in religion (B. A., 1970, U.C. Santa Barbara). Personal interests waned, and more purely academic ones waxed, as I pursued graduate work in Religion and East Asian Studies (M. A., 1974, University of British Columbia; Ph.D., 1980, University of Southern California).I came to exemplify this old saying: "Those who study comparative religions become comparatively religious."
Another major shift resulted from the decision to focus on religion in China rather than, say, India or Japan, leading to Chinese language and area studies. Graduate education also demanded a methodological focus, which in my case became Ritual Studies. The final result of all this was a doctoral dissertation on Confucian state rites ("Imperial Audience Ceremonies of the Ch'ing Dynasty: A Study of the Ethico-Religious Dimension of the Confucian State," USC, 1980).
Having earned a doctorate in Chinese religions with no overseas research, except for an intensive summer language program in Taiwan (1978), I was strongly encouraged to go to Taiwan for an extended period by my mentor Laurence G. Thompson. Since there were virtually no job openings in the U.S. in 1980, 1 went to Taiwan and ended up staying there for three years, getting married, and reluctantly returning to the U.S. in 1983 .The bad job market was, indeed, a blessing in disguise. My Taiwan experience resulted in an introductory book on Chinese religions (Chinese Religions. A Cultural Perspective [Prentice-Hall, 1986]) and a focused study of a "new religion" in Taiwan (Flowers, Fruit, and Incense Only: Elite versus Popular in Taiwan's Religion of the Yellow Emperor," Modern China 16:1 ).
More importantly, after this experience with living Chinese religions, I could never be satisfied with the narrow historical and textual orientation of the majority of scholars in Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist Studies in North America. Therefore, with the help of several return visits to Taiwan, ranging from one to ten months, in recent years I have devoted myself to a long term effort to identify and describe the various aspects of living Confucianism in Taiwan: Contemporary Confucian philosophy, Confucianism in Taiwan's schools, Confucian values in new religions and popular religious tracts, etc. I do not dare to predict when this research will be completed. For now I am content with the intrinsic joy of doing it.