Assistant Professor Buddhist StudiesDr. Rafal Felbur

Contact Information

Dr. Rafal Felbur
Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400
Room 400.01.24
69115 Heidelberg

+49 (0) 6221 54 4003

Dr. Rafal Felbur


My scholarly interests focus on the intellectual, cultural, and social dynamics of the encounter between India and China in the first millennium CE. This encounter was arguably one of most extensive, complex, and consequential processes of cross-cultural interaction and transcultural formation in premodern times. It profoundly and enduringly impacted the Sinitic world on every level, from that of material practice and everyday ritual, through language and literature, economy and political organization, to cosmological conceptions of individual and collective meaning. In my scholarship I focus primarily on the textual evidence for these historical processes—translations of Indic Buddhist texts into Chinese, commentaries, bibliographic works, indigenous polemical and exegetical tracts, and official documents—all of which testify to the activity on Chinese soil of the Buddhist monk and nun: at times maligned, at times extolled, but, despite the ideal of monastic withdrawal, never idle. While new source materials continue to be identified, mainly in the collections from Dunhuang, the availability of novel digital tools and methods means that documents long known to scholarship can now be reexamined in a fresh light, an approach I apply in my work. At HCTS I teach thematic courses on various aspects of Buddhism between India and China, as well as reading seminars on primary materials.

Curriculum Vitae

2022-  Wissenschaftlicher Assistent to the Chair of  Buddhist Studies, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University.
2019-2022  Postdoctoral research fellow at Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University. Core member of European Research Council project “Open Philology: the Composition of Buddhist Scriptures” 
2018  PhD, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University. Dissertation Title: “Anxiety of Emptiness: Selfhood and Scripture in Early Medieval Sinitic Buddhism.” Dissertation Advisers: Paul Harrison, John Kieschnick, Stefano Zacchetti.
2007  MA cum laude in Chinese Languages and Cultures, Leiden University.
2006  Master’s Degree in Sinology, Warsaw University.

Latest Publications

Saving the Buddhadharma from Itself: A Bilingual Synoptic Critical Edition, Translation, and Study of Sūrata-paripṛcchā Texts. Monograph under contract with Brill Publishers. 2023, 400 pp.
“Crosslinguistic Semantic Textual Similarity of Buddhist Chinese and Classical Tibetan.” With Marieke Meelen and Paul Vierthaler. Journal of Open Humanities Data, 8(1): 23, 2022, pp. 1–14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/johd.86. 
Review of The Zhengzheng lun by Xuanyi. A Buddhist Apologetic Scripture of Tang China, by Thomas Jülch. Monumenta Serica Monograph Series (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2009). Bulletin of Oriental and African Studies 82.2, 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X21000513.
“Kumārajīva. ‘Great Man’ and Cultural Event.” In Blackwell-Wiley Companion to World Literature, edited by Ken Seigneurie, et alii. 2020, 12 pp.
“Viśeṣavatīdhāraṇī.” Forthcoming in Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection (Vol. V). With Paul Harrison and Simon Wiles. 2020, 28 pp.
Treatises of Sengzhao (Zhaolun 肇論). Translation of T.1858, with notes and introduction. In Three Short Treatises (Berkeley: Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai English Tripiṭaka Project), 2018, 50—140.
“Vimalakīrtinirdeśa.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Johnathan Silk, Vincent Eltschinger, and Oskar von Hinüber. 2015, 9 pp.
“Sūtra Commentaries in Chinese until the Tang.” In Brill Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Johnathan Silk, Vincent Eltschinger, and Oskar von Hinüber. Co-authored with Hiroshi Kanno. 2015, 16 pp.
Translation of Zhaxi Dawa 扎西達娃, Xizang: xi zai pisheng kou shang de hun 西藏: 係在皮繩扣上的魂 . Warsaw: Dialog Academic Publishing (in Polish). 2005, 25 pp.

Awards and Honours

2016-2017  Chinese Institute for Buddhist Studies (CHIBS) Fellowship.
2015-2016  Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.
2014-2015  Freeman-Spogli Dissertation Grant in Chinese Studies.
2013  Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fellowship. Academia Sinica Fellowship for Doctoral Candidates (declined).
2011  Centennial Teaching Assistant Award (Stanford).
2006-2007  Huygens Scholarship Program Talent Scholarship (Holland).
2004-2005  Ministry of Culture and Sport National Award for Academic Excellence (Poland).
2002-2005  Warsaw University Scholarship for Academic Achievement.
2002-2003  China Scholarship Council Scholarship.

Memberships and Other Functions

American Academy of Religion.
Association of Asian Studies.
International Association for Buddhist Studies.
European Association for Chinese Philosophy.
European Academy of Religion.