Our research area covers traditional fields including Indology/ Indian Studies, Tibetology/ Tibetan Studies and Buddhist Studies. It is also related to Japanese Studies through Buddhism and linked to a relatively new fields of Comparative Philosophy and Digital Humanities. The common academic approach shared by these fields is Philology and we study religious thoughts of Buddhism and Hinduism, and languages and culture that are related to them.
Indian Studies, Tibetan Studies and Buddhist Studies
Indology or Indian Studies is a discipline that originates in Europe based on interest in languages of India. In the eighteenth century, it was discovered that Sanskrit, the classical language of India, was very close to ancient Greek and Latin, the classical languages of Europe. This interest in language then developed into interest in Indian culture, and research into Indian classical texts (Hindu sacred writings, Indian classical literature, Buddhist sutras and so on) flourished. Since the term ‘Indology’ follows this tradition, Indology today focuses on religious writings of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, historical and philosophical texts and literature written in Sanskrit and other classical languages of India, while the study of modern India is pursued by Sociology, Anthropology, and so on. On the other hand, Tibetology or Tibetan Studies is a relatively new discipline and deals with everything that has something to do with Tibet. Currently, Tibet is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China but up to 1949 the Tibetans had an independent Buddhist state. They built a vast Tibetan Buddhist cultural sphere spreading to Mongolia and Central Asia, and played a very important role in culture of Inner Asia, Nepal and Bhutan. Thus, a discipline called Tibetology was born. India and Tibet are linked through Buddhism. Buddhist Studies overlaps with both disciplines. Japanese people absorbed Buddhism as part of their culture a long time ago. Research into Buddhism in Japan has been developed by adopting modern philological approach to traditional religiously-focused studies. The research fields of Buddhist Studies today cut across those of Indology and Tibetology, and are linked to Japanese Studies.
Geographical areas and texts
The geographical areas these three disciplines study include India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Inner Asia such as Tibet and Mongolia, Central Asia including the Silk Road, and China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Historically speaking, these areas belonged to the Buddhist cultural sphere, and South and Southeast Asia belonged to the Hindu cultural sphere, the areas where religions and culture of India spread. The texts we study range from the oldest sacred writing from about 1200 BC to those written in the nineteenth century. These texts are written in Sanskrit and other classical languages of India as well as Tibetan and Chinese.
Comparative Philosophy and Digital Humanities
As described above, our research is broadly defined as research into Asian thought and culture, and it can take the form of intercultural understanding when exploring the diversity in the Asian area and of Comparative Philosophy if we compare Asian thought with European/Western ones. Our research is mainly based on texts that include inscriptions. Fieldwork is carried out to study art and architecture, and to study manuscripts kept in temples. In addition, digitalization of texts, the creation of databases and integration of resources as a means of sharing research findings and resources are pursued in a new discipline ‘Digital Humanities’ through international collaboration of scholars. Our research field is making considerable contribution to the development of Digital Humanities.
Our research is blind to nationality or ethnicity. Researchers from Asia and the West (including Israel) are constantly exchanging information and they collaborate. Many Japanese scholars publish their articles in English. Conventionally, Japan and Germany have led the world in this research area. The international collaboration between the University of Hamburg and the University of Tsukuba through this program is significant in that it is collaboration at the cutting-edge of the field.