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Master of Arts in Religious Studies

Study Scheme
Applicable to students admitted in 2013-14

1. Coursework Requirement

i)        Required courses:
RELS5005        3 units
ii)        Elective   courses:
Any seven courses with at least one course each from
Areas of Study1,2 and 3 prescribed in the course list.        21 units

24 units
Areas of Study

Area 1: Religion, Heritage and Context
Area 2: Religion, Society and Culture
Area 3: Religion, Life and Wisdom
Area 4: Special Topics in Religious Studies

Besides a required course (RELS5005 Theories of Religious Studies), students must take any seven courses with at least one course each from Areas of Study 1,2 and 3 prescribed in the course list.The degree would require a total of 8 courses, i.e., 24 units to be completed within one year for full-time students and two years for part-time students.

2. Other Requirements

(a) Students must take at least one course per term throughout the normative study period stipulated in the “General Regulations Governing Postgraduate Studies”.
(b) A student who obtains a cumulative grade point average (GPA) below 2.0 in the preceding term or receives a failure grade in thesis monitoring courses (for Research Postgraduate Programmes) will be put on academic probation. For details, please refer to Clause 14.0 “Unsatisfactory Performance and Discountinuation of Studies” of the General Regulations Governing Postgraduate Studies which can be accessed from the Graduate School Homepage: [url][/url]

Course List


Theories of Religious Studies


        This course attempts to analyze what everyday spirituality in the marketplace is, and how spiritual formation in the marketplace is nurtured, with reference to Hong Kong. A study of spirituality and marketplace will take religious, cultural, social and psychological aspects into consideration.
Area 1: 宗教、傳統與處境   (Religion, Heritage and Context)


Studies on Chinese Buddhism


This course studies major traditions in Chinese Buddhism including Chan, Pure Land, Huayen and Tiantai Buddhism. We also seek to understand the Chinese Buddhist tradition by utilizing some recent researches in the field. Some examples are the research on northern school of Chan Buddhism by John McRae and Bernard Faure, on Pure Land Buddhism by Luis Gomez and Richard Payne, on Buddhism in the Song especially Tiantai Buddhism by Peter Gregory and Daniel Getz. Secondary sources will be used together with selected primary sources to stimulate discussion in class.


Popular Religion in China


Recent researches on Chinese religion show that the term “three religions” or sanjiao monastic Buddhism, priestly Daoism, and Confucian philosophy – is not adequate to describe Chinese religiosity. To subsume several thousand years of Chinese religious experience under the term of “three religions”, in effect, is to exclude the vast majority of Chinese religious behaviour. In reality, only a few elite orient their lifestyles to the Buddhist or Taoist concepts of transcendence. Over emphasis on the intellectual and spiritual world of the scholarly official, the gentry and the literate elite, overlooks religious practices and beliefs of ordinary people, the peasants and the labourers who are the majority of the Chinese population. This course studies Chinese religion from the, traditional economy and village temples of various local societies in China perspective of local society in South China. By making use of recent ethnographical studies on China, we examine Chinese religion from a holistic approach involving the analysis of lineage.


Taoist Thought


This course aims to introduce the thought and doctrine of religious Taoism. Topics that constitute the essences of Taoist doctrine such as the idea of Tao, Taoist gods, Taoist cosmology, Taoist philosophy of life and nature, the value and meaning of life, the function of ritual and self-cultivation, and ethics will be surveyed. Selected issues in modern scholarship on Taoist doctrine will also be touched on.


Taoist Ritual


This course will focus on the study of the liturgical tradition of Taoism. Special reference will be made to the structure and signifi cance of the death ritual of fast (zhai) and the festival of offering (jiao). Through fieldwork studies, students will be shown how Hong Kong Taoists perform these two kinds of ritual services to the public nowadays.


Spirituality and Religious Congregations


This course offers a textual and thematic survey of developments of the major religious traditions in the Catholic Church, as they reflect the experience of God and its expression in piety, practice and ministry. Common characteristics and representative figures will be studied through lectures, critical reading and discussion of primary texts. The class will also examine modern interpretation of more traditional forms of spirituality.


Theology of Vatican   II


The purpose of this course is to introduce the contemporary Catholic theology through the study of Vatican II documents. The course will explore how the Vatican II council reconsiders her faith, with special attention to the relationship between grace and nature, church and world, hierarchy and charism, in the light of Eastern and Western theological tradition.


The Study of Islam


This course will introduce the basic concepts of Islam to the students i.e. fundamentals of faith, rituals of worship, Seerah of the Prophet of Islam, Islamic Civilization and Muslim contribution to different cultures. It will help the students to understand the contemporary issues in the light of Islamic teachings and the methodogical issues in Islamic Studies. The course has been designed for such students who have never studied Islamic Studies so far.


Hindu Visions of Divinity


Hindu religious traditions offer a rich variety of concepts as well as visualizations of divinity, from highly abstracted and nuanced notions of the Deity to highly tangible and specific images seen and elaborately venerated in temples. By close readings of classical sacred texts (in translation), viewing iconography, and discussion of India’s historical and social contexts in which texts and images have been embedded, this course will explore the fascinating amalgam of ritual, yoga, textual exegesis, and devotionalism of the Hindu religious world.


Studies of  Humanistic Buddhism


From more than 2500 years, Buddhism has spread almost all parts of the world, and undergone the developments from Primitive Buddhism, Theravada, Mahayana, to Tantriyana. In the contemporary world, Humanistic Buddhism has become one of the mainstreams of Buddhist developments. And the ideas and practices for the welfare of society and benefit of humanity have dominated Buddhist activities. This course designed to study the development of Humanistic Buddhism, including the history, thoughts, and practices. This course is divided into three parts yet each part is organically connected with the others. We first investigate the basic doctrines of traditional Buddhism related to the arising and practice of humanistic Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truth, the Dependent-Origination, the ideas and practices of Bodhisattva. Having understood the doctrinal foundation of Humanistic Buddhism, we then examine the history of humanistic Buddhism in the early Republic era (1912-1949). Social, political, religious, as well as economic background in which Humanistic Buddhism arose will be discussed so that students could have holistic picture about the interaction between Buddhist institutions and society then. The teaching and practice of some pioneers of Humanistic Buddhism, such as Ven. Taixu will be examined to reveal the contents of Humanistic Buddhism. Towards the end of semester, we explore the contemporary developments of humanistic Buddhism in general, and Foguan Shan Buddhism in particular.


The Hebrew Bible in Contexts


This course aims at introducing students to the approaches to reading the Hebrew Bible (The Christian Old Testament) in its literary, socio-political and religio-cultural contexts. The literary setting and historical background will be surveyed and explored in order to enhance students’ understanding of the text and the dynamics of the reading process.


Studies on Indian Buddhism


As the root of diversified Buddhist traditions in ancient and current times, Indian Buddhism is above all vital to thorough understanding as to how Buddhist thoughts have been developing throughout history. Focusing on the pecularities of various doctrines and schools, this course aims at providing an outline of the origin, path of dissemination and major developments of Indian Buddhism, alongside its interaction with significant events in Indian history.This course is an intermediate level study on Indian Buddhist thoughts and doctrines, but also embraces some general knowledge of Buddhist theories and practices. In the course of our study, a holistic approach in chronological order will be employed. At first, we shall start by reviewing the life and fundamental teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, providing a basic understanding of the Buddha’s time and world. It then follows the developments in Sectarian or Theravada Buddhism as the popularity of Buddhist philosophy increased and spread throughout India. Next, we come to explore the historical background that gave rise to Mahayana Buddhism. Crucial topics in this period include the Bodhisattva idea, Mādhyamika, Yogacara and Tathagatagarbha schools. In this investigation, doctrinal issues in some of the representative Mahayana sutras will also be featured through textual study of the selected scriptures. Towards the end of the course, the doctrine of Vajrayana school, together with the decline of Indian Buddhism will be brought into discussion.


Methods and Paradigms of Christian   Studies


Starting from the traditional understanding of indigenization whereby culture are often looked upon as static entities, Christianity and Chinese culture will also be compared as they moved through the recent history of China as two living forces competing to shape the China that was to be. This is an open-ended course which will continuously be informed by recent trends and developments.


New Testament in Contexts


This course will select some texts of the New Testament with contemporary methods for in-depth study. Texts include selected themes of the Pauline Epistles, Synoptic Gospels and Johannine Literature, e.g., Pauline Epistle Form, Doctrinal and Ethical Teachings; Eucharist, Baptism, Miracles and Teachings of the Synoptics; as well as Revelation structure, “I am saying”, Farewell Discourse of the Gospel of John.
Area 2: 宗教、社會與文化   (Religion, Society and Culture)


Taoism and Chinese Culture


This course aims at a general study of Taoism in Chinese cultural context. The focus is on Taoist elements and values in Chinese art, music, drama, and literature. This will allow students not only to study Taoism as one of Chinese religious traditions, but also to understand the intersections of Taoism and various aspects of Chinese culture. No prior knowledge of Taoism is assumed.


Religion and Ecological Crisis


This course aims at introducing the students to the issues related to religion and environmental ethics. The course will cover the following aspects: the basic approaches in environmental ethics; how religions are related to the environmental problems; the worldview and ethics of the major religious traditions; and how contemporary religions respond to the environmental question.


Contemporary Issues in Ethics, Society   & Religion


This course attempts to explore the complexity of contemporary issues raised by ethics and society through a religious perspective. How religious thinking can be enriched and challenged by issues of bioethical, business, legal and political nature


Catholic Social Ethics


This course attempts to examine the principles and ways of Church’s responses to social issues from the Catholic faith tradition. Topics include the relationship between morality and spirituality, the foundation of social ethics, the methods of theological reflection and pastoral actions. Particular attention is given to Catholic Social Teachings and its development, and its perspectives on issues like human rights, economic justice and globalization, work and labour, ecology, political participation, racism, women’s status and so on. Catholic social movements and individuals will also be introduced.


Buddhism and Culture


This course provides an overview of the historical development of Buddhist culture in Asia. Main features elements of Buddhism in the diversified culture is highlighted. Theoretical foundations of Buddhist philosophy is delivered at the beginning, with reference to the development of the various Buddhist traditions, such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Their impact, evolution and integration on and into different cultures are being studies, with reference to the contemporary Buddhist practices. Comparisons amongst various cultural elements would be made, providing a greater in depth understanding of the different aspects of Buddhist Culture and the dynamism of Buddhism in its adaptation to different cultures. The course will end with discussing the role of Buddhism in its influence in reshaping the culture of modern society, highlighting facts that will help in the formation of a harmonious society.


Translating Rel Classics & Cultural Exchange


The translation of religious classics plays an important role in cultural exchange and the spread of religion in a foreign culture. This course offers a critical discussion of the major theories and practices of translating religious classics. It allows students to become more aware of the problems and strategies involved in cross-cultural translation, as well as the contributions made thereof. The phenomenon of cultural accommodation and/or transgression as well as inter-religious dialogue in the process of translation will be critically examined. While more emphasis is put on the investigation of the Chinese translations of religious classics such as the Bible, the Koran and the Buddhist scriptures, the English translations of Chinese religious-literary classics like The Journey to the West will also be discussed.


Christianity in Chinese Literature


Religion has close relations with literature. This course is a study of the interactions between Christianity and Chinese literature in the 20th century. It attempts to investigate the impact of Christianity on modern and contemporary Chinese writers and explores the religious themes in selected literary works. It will also examine the practices of Christian literature by the Christian church in China.


Chinese Religion and Literature


Chinese literature has long been intertwined with religion. While Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist thoughts permeates classical Chinese literature, a large number of works constitute a lively epitome of Chinese religious culture. This course aims to investigate the interactive relationship between Chinese religion and literature. Students will be guided to examine the literary value and rhetorical devices of Chinese religious classics and the ways in which religious thoughts and symbols shape the themes, narratives and language of the literary works. Texts selected for reading include Chinese religious classics like The Lotus Sutra and The Divine Classic of Nan Hua, classical novels such as The Story of the Stone and The Journey to the West, as well as Chan/Zen and Daoist poetry.


Christianity and Chinese Culture


Starting from the traditional understanding of indigenization whereby culture are often looked upon as static entities, Christianity and Chinese culture will also be compared as they moved through the recent history of China as two living forces competing to shape the China that was to be. This is an open-ended course which will continuously be informed by recent trends and developments.


Media, Popular Culture and Christianity


This course is a critical exploration of the intricate relationships between popular media culture and Christianity. While popular culture and the media have long become a daily reality for many in the world, these have seldom been taken seriously by theologians and scholars of religion. Also, the relationship between popular media and religion (including Christianity) is often overlooked in academic studies until relatively recent time. We shall re-examine various manifestations of popular culture from Christian theological perspectives, and also probes into the subtle interrelatedness between media culture and Christianity as an organised religion. As its wider academic context, this course engages with the interdisciplinary field of media, religion, and culture (MRC) which has been under vigorous development since the mid-1990s; as its immediate socio-cultural-religious context of discussions, it attends particularly to the Chinese language popular media and Chinese Christianity in Hong Kong.
Area 3: 宗教、人生與智慧   (Religion, Life and Wisdom)


Religious Education and Personal Growth


This course will attempt to study some of the modern developmental theories such as Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory, Erikson’s socio-psychological theory, Kohlberg’ s moral developmental theory and Fowlers’ faith developmental theory. Special attention will be given to the evaluation of their signifi cance to education in a religious context.


Life and Death in World Religions


The problem of life and death constitutes the core concern of practically all religions of the world. The values and beliefs that relate to life and death have far-reaching impacts on different dimensions of religious practice. This course takes a thematic approach by examining and comparing the issues of life and death in some major religions in the world, including mainly the Indian, Chinese and Abrahamic traditions. The emphases and peculiarities of each religion will be illustrated from the doctrinal, textual, ritual and symbolic perspectives. Through the study of religion in different cultures, students will be equipped with a broadened horizon and fundamental framework for taking more advanced courses in all area of religious studies.


Wisdom in Religious Classics


The classics of different religious traditions offer a wealth of knowledge, insight and wisdom about nature, reality and life. The store of ancient wisdom accumulated in various cultures is oftentimes still relevant to our contemporary contexts. This course takes a textual and story approach by examining the notions and themes of wisdom in some major religions of the world. Through guided reading of selected passages from the religious classics, students may draw from the well of profound wisdom to stimulate their reflection on the approach of life, the way of looking at the world, and the recurring issues facing humanity. Texts selected for reading may include Zhuangzi, the Lotus Sutra, the Bible and the Quran, the Bhagavad Gītā, and so forth. The exact list of texts may be modified by the teacher who offers the course in a particular year.


Taoism, Health and Nourishing of Life


This course is designed to explore the rich heritage of Taoist self-cultivation tradition. The course begins with an understanding of Taoist cosmology and its correlation with human body by indepth reading of major Taoist texts, e.g. Inner Chapters of Baopu zi neipian, Wuzhen pian, Lingbao bifa, and Jinhua zongzhi. Students of this course will be taught how are how Taoist concept of qi shapes the understanding of health and perfection of human body, and develops the practices of self cultivation, e.g. inner alchemy, meditation, qigong exercises and etc. The approach of this course emphasizes lecture, discussion of reading materials and practice.


Buddhism, Right Mindfulness and   Meditation


Centering on the notion of “right mindfulness”, this course aims to introduce students to the core topics on the Buddhist way to inner peace and happiness. The course will therefore address subjects such as affliction, self and no-self, the middle way, right mindfulness, and etc. Furthermore, the course will touch upon some common issues in modern life, and will investigate how they can gain inspirations from Buddhist perspectives, whether theoretical or practical. Towards the middle and the end of the course, students will learn essential methods of meditation based on Buddhist mindfulness. Students will thereby acquire an initial experience of meditation and take the benefits of meditative concentration into every aspect of their life.


Religion and Spiritual Practice


Religion is a collection of belief systems, and practices represented by symbols and myths that relate humanity to spirituality. Though contemporary spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the nature of his/her being; or the deepest meanings by which people live, spiritual traditions and practices most notably develop from the world religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. This course is designed to provide a cross-cultural exploration of the meanings of spirituality via the study of original religious texts, classical and contemporary studies in the academic study of comparative religion. This course also brings students to experience the spiritual practices from different religious traditions. Emphasis will be given to Jewish and Catholic Meditation, Hindu Yoga, Buddhist Mindfulness, and Taoist Breathing exercises.
Area 4: 宗教專題研究   (Special Topics in Religious Studies)


Special Topic in Religious Studies I


The specific topics of this course vary from year to year, depending on the expertise of the teacher of that particular year. Generally, they can be topics and issues related to different religious traditions, religion and society, religion and culture, or religion and life.


Special Topic in Religious Studies II


The specific topics of this course vary from year to year, depending on the expertise of the teacher of that particular year. Generally, they may be more advanced themes and theories related to different religious traditions, religion and society, religion and culture, or religion and life.


Research Paper in Religious Studies


Every student has to write a research paper in religious studies of not less than 15,000 words on an approved topic under individualized supervision.


Field Studies of Religious Culture


Integrating classroom learning with field work in relation to religious culture, this course is designed to help students truly comprehend textual knowledge and develop deeper insights into religious understanding by engaging in the spatial, geographical and material dimensions of particular religious traditions. This is a three-credit course in which the majority of the academic work is accomplished through group study and travel to some carefully selected religious sites, whether overseas or domestic. It aims to provide students with a lively and effective learning experience at an off-campus location for a minimum of three overnights, and enhances the student’s classroom learning through first-hand exposure to the religious relics and material culture. Each study tour will be organized and headed by experienced members of teaching staff. The specific sites of visit will depend on the subject and theme of study designed by the teacher who offers the course in a particular year.

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