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Food and religion in Chinese history the topic of upcoming Buddhist lecture

A special lecture and food tasting on the topic of Food and Religion in Chinese History will be taking place on Thursday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in Room HW305 in the Humanities Wing at the University of Toronto Scarborough. This event is part of the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Chinese Characters   Perspectives on Buddhist Thought and Culture at UTSC.

Professor Joanna Waley-Cohen of New York University will deliver a special lecture titled “The Taste of Belief: Food and Religion in Chinese History.” The event has been organized by The Department of Humanities and Arts & Events Programming. Prior to the lecture, a tasting will take place at 6:30 p.m. featuring some of the regional food and drink discussed in the talk. This event is part of the Food for Thought series at UTSC.

In premodern China religious practices, together with beliefs about the relationship between the human and natural world, were among the important factors shaping what people ate and the circumstances in which they ate it. In this talk, Waley-Cohen discusses the interaction of Buddhist, Confucian, and other popular belief systems in China specifically in terms of their impact on culinary history and on related social customs and practices. Among the topics to be considered are animal sacrifice; diet; commensality; morality as it related to diet, especially vegetarianism, and the ways in which, in the late imperial period, certain dietary practices gained political as well as religious significance.

Joanna Waley-Cohen, a graduate of Cambridge and Yale Universities, is currently a Collegiate Professor and Chair, Department of History, at New York University. She is the author of three books: Exile in mid-Qing China: Banishment to Xinjiang, 1758-1820 (1991), Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History (1999), and The Culture of War in China: Empire and the Military under the Qing Dynasty (2006). She has also published several articles surveying subjects within Chinese political, legal, military and cultural history. In her visit to the University of Toronto Scarborough, Dr. Waley-Cohen will discuss one of her current research projects studying the role of food in Chinese social and cultural life from 1500 to 1900.

A free shuttle bus will depart from the Hart House (St. George campus) at 5:30 p.m. to transport downtown guests to and from the event at U of T Scarborough. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. To register, please RSVP to or call 416-208-4769.

The initiatives supported by the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Foundation emphasize multiple perspectives in the study of Buddhist thought and culture, including linkages among history, literature, philosophy, religion, and the visual and performing arts. Within the context of UTSC’s multi-disciplinary Department of Humanities and its Global Asia Studies Program, Tung Lin Kok Yuen Chinese Characters  Perspectives on Buddhist Thought and Culture, supports important ongoing conversations about cultural pluralism and diversity within Canadian society.


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