The Lama Temple (Yonghegong) and the Confucian Temple/Imperial Academy are well-known for their association with Buddhism and Confucianism respectively. But these sites have also long played a significant role in state ideology and the ideology of empire building.
First, we’ll look at the religious and philosophical context for both locations. What are the origins of Buddhism in China and the Tibetan Plateau? Who was Confucius and why is he so important to China’s political culture?
Then we’ll consider how the Qing emperors appropriated the forms and functions of Tibetan Buddhism. What was the relationship between the Qianlong Emperor and the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Rolpe Dorje? Why did the emperor decide to consecrate his father’s palace as a Lama Temple? This connection between the state and Buddhism in Tibet has had profound implications for the history of Beijing’s relationship with the Tibetan Plateau.
At the Confucian Temple, we will talk about how Confucianism became the dominant ruling ideology and the role that the system of exams and academies, notably the adjoining Imperial College, played in perpetuating Confucianism through the centuries. How did students navigate the perilous journey through the exam system and what kinds of shortcuts might tempt the less scrupulous candidates?