The first and unique programme of its kind in local universities, the Master of Arts Programme in Religious Studies (hereafter the Programme) was established in 1998 by the Department of Religion (renamed Department of Cultural and Religious Studies in 2004). Considering religion an integral part of human life, thought and culture, the Programme advocates a critical and comparative perspective to the study of multifarious religious phenomena and a sympathetic understanding of people’s religious experience.
Emphasis on experiential learning is a distinctive feature of our Programme. Since religion is a living phenomenon in our society, fieldwork constitutes a core learning activity for students to integrate religious theory and application, and to gain a greater understanding of the daily religious practices of people, both locally and overseas. Over the past years, students participated in a large number of field trips organized either by individual courses or research centres to visit religious sites in Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China, Malacca, Japan, Portugal and so forth.
With the establishment of the Alumni Association of the Programme in 2013, a group of committed graduates has been passionate in promoting the culture, values and wisdom of different religious traditions to the general public through workshops, open lectures, and field trips. Moreover, thanks to the strong support of our alumni, fourscholarships (Ho Chor Memorial Scholarship, St. Francis Xavier Scholarship, Leung Yun Tim Memorial Scholarship, Shun Shin Yin Koon Scholarship) have been set up to recognize student achievements and promote the cause of religious studies.
The Programme being principally not career-oriented, most graduates in the Graduate Exit Survey strongly agree with the question: “The Programme has provided me an excellent foundation for my life-long learning”. Students recognize and affirm the Programme’s main objective of heightening their cultural and religious sensitivity, as well as critical and analytical skills, which lay a solid foundation for their lifelong learning.
External Examiner’s Remarks
The Programme places great emphasis on selecting External Examiners of high academic standing from first-class universities in order to receive an unbiased assessment and qualitative benchmark indicators to illustrate the comparative advantages of our Programme. Recent examiners include Prof. Yü Chün-fang (于君芳) (2007-2010), from Columbia University, and Prof. Stephen F. Teiser (2010-2013), from Princeton University.
Prof. Yü Chün-fang positively remarked in her assessment report (May 2009) that “I have reviewed a number of course syllabi and am favorably impressed by their rationale, coverage, organization, and assessment methods. I find their standard comparable to similar courses offered in American institutions including Columbia where I teach.”
Prof. Stephen F. Teiser was highly affirmative in his assessment report (October 2013) that “The quality and breath of the Religious Studies curriculum are exemplary. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has one of the best (and certainly the largest) M.A. programs in the study of Chinese religion in the world. Moreover, its offerings in the broader field of Religious Studies place it in the top rank of all universities in Asia and on a par with the best in Europe and North America. The high quality and disciplined training provided in a tripartite Department of Cultural and Religious Studies (embracing Religious Studies, Cultural Studies, and the Divinity School) no doubt add a significant amount of breadth and depth to this M.A. program. The faculty are up-to-date in all fields and are international leaders in some fields. Virtually every course I examined provides up-to-date and cutting-edge instruction, preparing M.A. students for a wide range of intellectual and occupational challenges. In addition, in some areas the courses in Religious Studies at CUHK are either unique or establish the world standard, especially in the areas of Daoism, Christianity in China, Chinese local religion, religion in Chinese literature, and studies of the Hebrew Bible.”