The KF Award for Academic Excellence program is now in its 4th year. Outstanding young Buddhist scholars are recognized and given cash awards of about $1000 at ten universities around the world.
Congratulations to Robban Toleno, recipient of the 2013 KF Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies at UBC, Vancouver. Robban holds an M.A. degree in ecological anthropology and has a longstanding interest in better understanding historical mechanisms that pattern human ecology in large-scale, literate societies. He is currently researching how Chinese Buddhist authors represent plants, or human experience of plant products, as sources of metaphor for expressing religious ideals. His dissertation is an investigation of knowledge on food and eating (shí 食) in Yìchǔ’s 義楚 (tenth century) Shìshì liùtiě 釋氏六帖, a comprehensive Buddhist lèishū 類書 from China’s Five-Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period that was never entered into the Buddhist canon, but which arrived to the present day as a rare manuscript held at Tōfukuji in Kyoto, Japan. His other sources include various Buddhist writings, agricultural texts (nóngshū 農書), materia medica (běncǎo 本草), and compilations of recipes.
And from University of Pennsylvania Department of Religious Studies the 2013 winners are Sijie Ren and Yeoungshin Shim.
Yeoungshin Shim is writing a dissertation on the directional guardians (Lokapala) of Buddhist Temples in East Asia. She is focusing on these images and their cult in Korea from 7th century through 14th century. Yeoungshin earned her M.A. from Hongik University in Seoul, Korea and is finishing her doctorate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a practicing Buddhist and trained in Sanskrit, Classical Chinese, and Korean. She has worked at the Gyeonggi Provincial Museum in Yongin, Korea as a curator and art historian for more than 15 years before coming to Penn. She curated exhibitions on a variety of subjects such as comparative culture of Korea, China and Japan, glasses from Roman to pre-modern, icons from Spain.
Sijie Ren received her Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Tianjin University’s School of Architecture before entering the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree as a Benjamin Franklin Fellow. Her research focuses on the art and architectural history of East Asia, with a special emphasis on ancient Buddhist architecture. Her boarder interests include Chinese painting, funeral art, and religious architecture in South and Southeast Asia. She has done work in historic
preservation, and has participated in conservation projects such as the Chinese government sponsored preservation at Angkor Wat, in co-operation with UNESCO. She also works as an illustrator, and has contributed to several publications including the Illustrated Dictionary of the Song Dynasty Building Standards (in Chinese). She and the research teams she is a part of are recipients of many prestigious awards, including the National Natural Science Foundation of China Research Fellowship, the Chinese National Innovation Experiment Program Grant, and the Global Urban Studies’ Work in Archives Grant, among others. Presently she is doing research on a 9th century Buddhist temple in north China, known as the “Temple of the Buddha’s Light,” and is preparing a Chinese translation of A Global History of Architecture.