Gender, Sexuality and Women in East Asian Cinema
I created this course at the Centre for East Asian Studies (now included in the Department of Languages and Cultures Studies), Renison University College, University of Waterloo. It was approved by Departmental and Collegial authorities and won popularity among students with highly diverse backgrounds.
The course focuses on how gender, sexuality, and women are represented or reflected in films produced in East Asia, East Asian themed Hollywood films or Hollywood films that feature East Asian characters. Meticulously designed based on an online survey, this inter-disciplinary course allows students interested in East Asia to gain in-depth knowledge of historical and cultural study of traditional and modern East Asian cultures and societies through films within a relatively short period of time. This course may also prepare students who wish to explore travel or career opportunities in East Asia, from Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai to Hong Kong…
The course provides a wide range of lectures and seminar presentations on the history of women and feminisms in East Asia, the formation of gender aesthetics and sexual artifice in traditional and contemporary East Asian arts, and gender and sexuality related social phenomena in contemporary East Asian societies. No prior experience of the East Asian languages is required.
Gender, Sexuality, and Women in Buddhism
Is Buddhism sex-negative? Is it misogynous? Did the Buddha really prefer male followers? Is Buddhism homophobic or transphobic? How does Buddhism view sexual misconduct? How does it view abortion? Can Buddhist monks get married? Monks, nuns, and laypersons vow to avoid sexual misconduct, but there is no wide agreement on the definition of sexual misconduct. So, how do people perceive sexual misconduct and execute the rules into their own life? While Buddhist ethics have been oriented toward maintaining social harmony rather than a concept like the Christian notion of sin, does that mean Buddhism is totally liberal?
In this course, we will be talking about some of the most interesting topics: Buddhahood and Womanhood, the Symbols of the Feminine, Androgynous Buddha Imagery, and Guanyin Apparitions in Modern China (similar to Marian apparitions in the West).
This course explores historical, textual, and social questions relating to the position and experience of women and sexual minority people in the Buddhist world in South Asia and East Asia. It focuses on four key areas: Buddhist history, contemporary Buddhist cultures in Asia, gender and symbolism in Buddhism, and sexualities and Buddhism.
Exploring Spirituality and Sexuality in Asia
A lay Buddhism follower in China once told me that she had been approached by a Tibetan lama who wanted to teach her how to achieve a “spiritual sublimation” by forming a “sexual union” with him. She did not feel comfortable at all. When we talk about the Kama Sutra, Tantric Yogic and Spiritual BDSM, it sounds like many classic religious traditions link eroticism and spirituality in the quest for the divine. But that is just one side of the story. In general, religious practice inhibits sexual expression, and celibacy is a spiritual mandate for clergy and encouraged for laypeople.
This course explores the two dynamics in Asian religions, distinguished by the perception of the relationship between body and spirit, which are considered either in opposition or a union. This course aims to create a space for interdisciplinary explorations of the common spaces where sexuality and spirituality embrace, entwine and overlap.
Recent studies indicate that there is a positive link between religion/spirituality and health and wellbeing (Hill and Pragament, 2003). Meanwhile, Asian religion courses are becoming increasingly popular in Western universities.
Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in Modern Buddhism
Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes, France, every year due to the Marian apparitions and the miraculous healing power of the spring. In Asia and China, there has never been a shortage of similar stories of the supernatural in the Buddhist culture. The human imagination has been captivated for thousands of years by the mystical power that operates outside the laws of nature. In religions, the supernatural is a potent weapon for exerting control over individuals who fail to conform to the “norms” of the community.
Are there any supernatural phenomena in the modern age? With modern technology booming, are people today more skeptical or more accepting of the unexplainable? What purpose does the supernatural serve in 21st century societies? This course examines mystical legends in the history of Buddhism and introduces the investigations of the supernatural in the Buddhist culture in Asia in the modern age. The course aims to interrogate and investigate the supernatural from a variety of perspectives in order to understand the uses and meanings of the supernatural across time and cultures.
Photo above: Dr. Huai Bao with Master Shi Yongxin, the current abbot of the Shaolin Temple
East-West Dialogue: The World of Fortune-Telling
This is a ground-breaking course that I’m creating. Once in my Chinese Culture and Society class, a Canadian-born Chinese student said that, having been raised in two cultures, he observed that Chinese people in general were more “obsessed” with divination than Westerners were. Another student, who was a white Canadian woman, disagreed, saying that the obsession with fortune-telling and with knowing about the future is universal.
A Chinese medical doctor residing in Vancouver, BC once said, “In the West, when people feel depressed, upset and confused, they will go to a psychotherapist referred by their family doctor. In China, people will go to a fortuneteller.” A study in the USA indicates that, however, one third of all clients for psychotherapy do not return after one or two sessions, and that only 10% remain for more than 20 sessions. In my research, I have observed that a popular psychic may have a great number of repeat clients; some clients would visit the psychic several times a month. Why?
I have conducted extremely extensive fieldwork in China and North America, having interviewed over 200 people who have visited a fortune-teller or psychic frequently or at least once, and those who engage in the business for a living or for pure pleasure. In 2012, I published a book in China, entitled Change Destiny, based on my interviews, discoveries and observations.
The course examines all the traditions, rituals, legends, folklore, and public figures in the culture of divination in China, India, and in the West, as well as investigates many confusing phenomena in the business and provides insightful analysis. For example, why do some people call themselves psychic instead of fortunetellers? What is exactly the difference? In my view, this suggests a cognitive progress. Why do some psychics have to be booked one or two years in advance while others are always immediately available for booking? Are those visitors all irrational and revealing? What is the trick like for cold reading? How reliable are the so called psychic detectives? How much free will do we have if our fate and destiny are all written in a script? Through my interviews, observations and investigations, I have gained tons of information and data. If you are interested in studying the occult and in exploring human nature, then you should take this course!
We will cover these topics on a weekly basis:
1. The History of Divination in China and in Europe
2. I-Ching and the Chinese Mind
3. Famous Figures: China and Europe
4. Ouija Board Stories: From the Past to the Present
5. From Fuji to “Pen Spirit”
6. Four Lessons by Yuan Liaofan: Healthy or Harmful?
7. The Economy of Luck and Fate: China Vs. the West
8. Believers Vs. Skeptics: First Person Accounts
9. Religious Perspectives: Fatalism, Pre-determinism, and Free Will
10. The Humanistic Approach
Other Courses That I have Taught:
East Asian Civilization
Global Genders and Sexualities
Gender and Popular Culture
World Literature, Film and Theatre
China in Mass Media
Chinese Culture and Society
The Chinese Language (100, 200 and 300 levels)
Courseware That I Have Compiled: