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Bryan Lowe



Assistant Professor of Religious Studies,
Religious Traditions of Japan and Korea

Contact Information

P: (615) 322-0095


Ph.D., Department of Religion, Princeton University, 2012.

M.A., Department of Religion, Princeton University, 2009.

B.A. magna cum laude in Religion and Japanese, Middlebury College, 2003.

Curriculum Vitae

Research and Teaching

I specialize in East Asian religions with a focus on Buddhism in early Japan (seventh through ninth centuries). I am broadly interested in ritual practice, Buddhist manuscript cultures, and the relationship between religion and the state. My current book project, Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Early Japan (forthcoming 2017), argues that transcribing scripture was never a simple act of copying a text but a ritualized practice performed by people from diverse social and geographic backgrounds that helped them realize this- and other-worldly ambitions. Whereas previous scholarship has focused on the promotion of Buddhism by the state, my research looks beyond court circles to consider the role Buddhism played in the social and religious life of a wide segment of the population. I am also engaged in several other research projects that examine topics including the nature and structure of East Asian Buddhist canons, nineteenth and twentieth century debates in Japanese Buddhist intellectual and academic circles over the state’s position relative to religion, and Buddhist preaching and ritual practices in and outside of the capital in eighth- and ninth-century Japan.

I teach courses on Japanese religions, theory and method in the study of religion, and Buddhist doctrine and practice. In teaching and research, I take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of religion. Students in my classes discuss poetry and novels, analyze films and material objects, and reflect upon philosophical and doctrinal treatises.

I completed my undergraduate studies at Middlebury College in Vermont with a double major in Japanese and Religion. After graduating, I spent two years in Japan as a Coordinator for International Relations on the JET program in Nagano prefecture. I did my graduate work at Princeton University and was a research fellow at Otani University in Kyoto from 2010-2011. I have also had extended stays in other parts of Japan including Yokohama, Nagoya, and Himeji.

I have received generous support for my research from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright IIE, Vanderbilt University Research Scholars Grant, the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies (Tokyo), and others. My 2012 dissertation won the Stanley Weinstein Prize awarded to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years.

I also edit an online Guide to Shōsōin Research.

Select Publications:

“States of ‘State Buddhism’: History, Religion, and Politics in Late Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Scholarship.” Japanese Religions 39/1&2 (2014): 71–93.

“Contingent and Contested: Preliminary Remarks on Buddhist Catalogs and Canons in Early Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 41/2 (2014): 221-253.

"Buddhist Manuscript Culture in Pre-modern Japan." Religion Compass 8/9 (2014): 287-301. 

"The Scripture on Saving and Protecting Body and Life: An Introduction and Translation." Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies 27 (2014): 1-34. 

"The Discipline of Writing: Scribes and Purity in Eighth-century Japan." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39/2 (2012): 201-239. 

Texts and Textures of Early Japanese Buddhism: Female Patrons, Lay Scribes, and Buddhist Scripture in Eighth-Century Japan.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 73:1 (Autumn 2011): 9-36.





 Sirui Ma has been inducted to Phi Beta Kappa.

Jake Horvitz won best essay in First Year Seminar.

Alec Rothschild was accepted into the Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples program.