School of Social Sciences

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Postgraduate students research a broad range of topics across the School disciplines.

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Joshua Esler

Start date

Mar 2010

Submission date

Nov 2013

Joshua Esler


Tibetan Buddhism and Han Chinese Converts: Shaping Identity through Ritual


The aim of the thesis is to examine the changing identities of middle-class Han Chinese in China who convert to Tibetan Buddhism, and explore the evolving nature of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism in this context. Drawing parallels from the notion of ‘Sinicisation’, the proposed project will explore whether Han Chinese who convert to Tibetan Buddhism become ‘Tibetanized’ to any extent. That is, just as Tibetan Buddhism is a way of life for many Tibetans and is inseparable, within Tibetan society, from the cultural conventions attached to it, do these conventions transfer across into the cultural setting of Han Chinese converts?

Why my research is important

While several researchers have explored the trend of Western conversion to Tibetan Buddhism, few have focused on conversion among Han Chinese to Tibetan Buddhism. The scholars that have carried out research on this area have done so mainly with the Republican period in mind, and virtually no research has been done on the current trend that began in the early 1980s following the religious reforms in China. The research will endeavour to fill in the gaps in the knowledge regarding the past three decades, with special emphasis on the last decade.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award