Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LT2955 (AF:358614 AR:186544)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Bachelor's Degree Programme
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
This course provides an introduction to the study of early Indian Buddhism for those with no or little previous knowledge of the subject. It will explore the cultural context, the main doctrines and scriptures, ethics, ritual and other practices, monastic life. The course will focus on arts, archaeology and cultural materials, and will explore these aspects through case-studies, mostly chosen amongst the most important archaeological sites of South Asia.
By the end of this course a typical student should be able to do most of the following:
Locate the origins of Buddhism in its socio-religious context;
• Outline the spread of Buddhism in South Asia;
• Explain the fundamental concepts of Buddhism and relate these to the practices;
• Describe its main scriptural authorities;
• Identify a range of motivations underlying ordination and the relation between monasteries and the society;
• Discuss some of the above with reference to relevant primary and secondary sources.
The course is an elective for the BA in Languages, Cultures and Societies of Asia and North Africa.
By the end of this course unit students should normally:

1. Have gained a good knowledge and critical understanding of the main topics concerning the cultural history of early Buddhism in South Asia;
2. Have gained an understanding of the continuities and discontinuities between the main schools of early Buddhism;
3. Be able to find and use critically a range of materials including books, journals, primary sources, and web-based resources relevant to the topics studied in the course.
4. Write a sustained argumentative essay on the basis of their study of the bibliography of the course.
No prerequisites: the course is for students with no or little previous knowledge of the subject.
History of Buddhism (South Asia): art history, archaeology and material culture.
The course will address the subject through the following pathway:
1) Geography and general chronology (introduction)
1a) Birth and early diffusion of Buddhism: chronological problems and archaeological debate
1b) Urban sites of early Buddhism.
1c) Life and material culture in Gangetic India in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE
2) The Maurya phase: sites, religious policies, epigraphy
2a) Problems of religious history
2b) Expansion of Buddhism in the North-West
2c) Texts of the Maurya edicts
2d) A post-Maurya 'restoration'? The Problem of Pusyamitra Sunga
3) Historical Buddhism: Schools
3a) From Early Buddhism to Mahayana and Vajrayana
3b) How to read Buddhist art
4) The Buddhism of historical age: the schools and the centres of diffusion:
4a) Gandhara (North-West, including Kapisa), Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar.
4b) Introduction: Kashmir, Himalaya-Karakorum, Bamiyan, Nepal
4c) Introduction: Odisha and Sri Lanka
5) Chinese, Korean and Tibetan pilgrims
6) The End of Buddhism in South Asia (seminar lectures)
7) Beyond the Himalayas: Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Korea and Japan, beyond Late Antiquity (Seminar Lectures)
H. Prabha Ray, Archaeology of Buddhism in Asia. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History [PDF on Moodle]
J. Strong, Buddhism. An introduction (selected chapters). OneWorld 2015
R. Salomon, The Buddhist Literature of Ancient Gandhara (selected readings). Wisdom 2018
G. Pugliesi Carratelli, Gli editti di Asoka (selected readings). Adelphi 2003
L.M. Olivieri, Fabrica gandharica. Lo stupa buddhista di Saidu Sharif I (Swat): le cave, il cantiere, l’officina (English edition [Serie Marco Polo, Edizioni Ca' Foscari] will be available in January 2022)
C. Pieruccini, L'arte dell'India.1 Dalle origini ai grandi templi medievali, Einaudi 2020: capitoli II.1, 7-8, III.3-4, IV.1-2.
G. Tucci, Vita di Buddha. Luni Editrice 2019

Handouts on sites, architecture and monuments will be available on Moodle.
Selected texts and epigraphic material will be available on Moodle.
A short written summary will be requested every 4 lessons.
Before the exam, the candidate will present a short (about 3000 words in English or Italian) research essay on a topic selected by the candidate that references and cites the texts we have studied.
Lectures and reading assignments. Seminars on early Indian Buddhism with guest lecturers. E-learning platform on Moodle.
For any inquires write to lucamaria.olivieri@unive.it

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "International cooperation" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 11/09/2021