With a generous donation of HK$4 million [UA$500,000] from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Hong Kong (ISKCON), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) established a Professorship in Indian Religions and Culture within the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies to strengthen its research and teaching in religious and cultural studies.
Officiated by Mr. L.D. Ralte, Consul General of India; Sri Radhika Dasi and Bhaktivinoda Dasa, both from ISKCON; and Prof. Liu Pak-wai, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, a professorship inauguration cum cheque-presentation ceremony was held on 11 Otcober 2007.
Prof. Kenneth Valpey (Krsna Ksetra Dasa) from Oxford University has been appointed to the professorship. The Department of Cultural and Religious Studies is offering four new courses, which are the first of its kind in Hong Kong, on Indian religions and culture. They include: Religious Traditions of India, Tradition and Modernity in India, Self and Identity in Indian Culture, and a Special Topic in International Studies for undergraduate major program of the department as well as general education of undergraduates and international students.
The department is also developing courses on Indian religions and culture on the MA level and exploring collaboration opportunities with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. In addition, various academic and cultural activities, such as lectures, seminars, publications, cultural festivals and study tours, will be organized to enhance public understanding of Indian religions and culture as well as benefit the secondary school teachers and students joining the University’s Harmony in Diversity program.
Radhika Dasi of ISKCON said, “It has long been the vision of ISKCON to establish an academic course on Indian religions and culture in a local institution of higher learning. We are confident that this new program will bring about a better understanding of the diverse culture of India and further enhance the existing goodwill and rapport between the local Chinese people and the Indian community, who have made Hong Kong their home.”
Prof. Liu Pak-wai said, “India has a very ancient and diverse culture that few countries in the world have. Indian people also have a long presence in Hong Kong. India’s links with Hong Kong date back to the 1840s. It is estimated that there are currently about 35,000 Indians in Hong Kong. As an important academic center for Chinese and overseas scholars, our university has been striving to enhance exchanges between the East and the West. We see the inauguration of the Professorship in Indian Religions and Culture in Chinese University as an important step of promoting cultural exchange, establishing and developing relations between academic institutions in India and Hong Kong.”
The Department of Cultural and Religious Studies of CUHK has been striving to promote the comparative studies of different cultures and religions. In recent years, with the generous financial support from various religious communities, several research centers have been established under the department, including the Center for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism, the Center for the Studies of Daoist Culture, the Center for Catholic Studies, and the Center for Christian Studies. The establishment of the Professorship in Indian Religions and Culture lays a solid foundation for relevant studies in the University and we will continue to help foster cultural pluralism within the community.