• Instructor Yi-Huan leading the class in Classical Chinese

The Language strand provides the opportunity for students to examine classical Chinese and Sanskrit source texts in their original languages. Language Tutorials are designed to equip students with tools that aid in interpreting primary texts and in better understanding how languages work in general. Students venture to learn language skills sufficiently well to approach selected texts in the original; mastery is not the goal. Through the process of reading, translating, and analyzing passages from these texts, and with the guidance and assistance of the instructor, students can more closely appreciate the nuances of meaning and style in these works. Translating from a classical language to the student’s modern language affords a deeper appreciation of how different languages work to solve common communication challenges.

In the Chinese or Sanskrit Language Tutorial students will work toward and engage in careful reading of selections from primary texts in the original language, participate in classroom discussion of those texts, and develop and communicate their ideas about those texts in written format. They will develop the analytic skills and aesthetic sensitivities to appreciate the meaning and distinctive style of the texts. The program goal is for students to improve their critical thinking abilities, creative sensibilities, and communication skills and to begin formulating their own views on important issues and enduring questions of the human condition. As a result of participating in the Language Tutorials, students will acquire some of the basic skills needed to read and translate short, straightforward passages in a classical language and learn to use appropriate linguistic resources in order to analyze, discuss, and write about these passages with the added discernment translation often gives.

The first two years of the Language Tutorial will be comprised of a year of classical Sanskrit and a year of classical Chinese. Students can choose between Sanskrit or Chinese for the third year Language Tutorial.

Classical Chinese—Freshman Year

In the first-year Classical Chinese Language Tutorial, particular emphasis is devoted to learning the basic elements of Classical Chinese, accompanied by close reading, translation, and discussion of selected passages from the Buddhist and Chinese classics. Under the guidance of the instructor, students will read the texts line by line and translate them from Chinese into English with the help of dictionaries, reference works, and in-class discussion.

By engaging with a primary text in its source language, students will grapple with the challenges and complexities of interpretation and translation, thus acquiring a nuanced appreciation of how ideas and thoughts become distinctively formed and conveyed through written words and language. While teamwork is the primary learning format in this course, students will also develop individual reading comprehension and translation skills.

The texts for the language strand include selections from Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, Heart Sūtra, Sixth Patriarch Sūtra, and Sutra in Forty-two Sections, as well as writings from Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, and Zhuangzi. The texts are chosen to complement the focus of the Chinese and Buddhist Classics strands. This brings the students into a close encounter with the texts, allowing them to explore multiple layers of interpretation and integrate their learning experience into a more meaningful whole—thus keeping with the overall approach of an integrated program.

Classical Chinese—Junior Year

By the second year of the Classical Chinese Language Tutorial, students will have acquired sufficient grasp of Classical Chinese to begin reading and translating more extended passages from major Buddhist and Chinese works. Students are encouraged to not merely translate the surface meaning of the words, but to engage in a deeper reading and conversation with the text, paying close attention to the shades of meaning and concepts that may not be readily available in common English translations. Through reading classical texts in their original language, students encounter a more subtle and direct voicing of the ideas and fundamental questions such works raise.

Sanskrit—Sophomore Year

During the first year, Sanskrit Tutorial students will learn the basics of classical Sanskrit grammar and the skills needed to read, translate, and interpret classical Sanskrit texts. They will be able to understand grammatical concepts as they relate to East Asian and Western languages, including Chinese and English. They will also understand the history of the Sanskrit language and its role in India and beyond. Students will be guided through readings from source texts in Sanskrit in two major traditions of classical India—Hinduism and Buddhism. This will include abstracts from the Rāmāyaṇa, well as the text of the Heart Sūtra and the Amitābha Sūtra. Students will be exposed to important classical Sanskrit vocabulary relevant to major philosophical and literary themes that occur in classical Sanskrit texts. They will learn to use scholarly resources, both electronic and in print, to aid with translation. Reference texts will include the Devavāṇīpraveśikā, An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language, and Buddhism A to Z.

Sanskrit—Junior Year

During the second year, students in the Sanskrit Language Tutorial will devote most of their time to reading and translating selections from classical Sanskrit source texts under the guidance of an instructor. To facilitate integration of degree program curricula, Sanskrit and Pāli texts will be chosen that reflect offerings from the Indian and Buddhist Classics strands. The Sanskrit texts chosen will highlight the major themes that pertain to the individual, society, and the world as seen through the perspective of ideas about knowledge, values, and communication. Consideration will be given to how Indian theories about language and knowledge relate to Indian techniques for transformation. Works chosen from Hindu, Buddhist, and related traditions will show common and contrasting themes that recur throughout the Indian classics. Students will look at what these texts suggest about the nature of reality, wisdom, and how to lead a meaningful life.

Buddhist readings will come from various Theravāda and Mahāyāna texts, including primary texts and commentaries. Non-Buddhist selections will come from Vedic, Brāhmaṇic, Purāṇic, Epic, Jain, and other literature. Possible Buddhist texts may come from the Prajñā Pāramitā literature, the Lotus Sūtra, the Sukhāhvatīvyūha Sūtra, the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Visuddhimagga, the Nikāyas, the Jātakas, the Lalitavistara, the Mahāvastu, the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā by Nāgārjunathe Abhidharmakośa by Vasubandhu, and the Buddhacarita by Aśvaghoṣa.

The primary objective of the Sanskrit Language Tutorials is to help students learn to interpret texts, analyze their philosophical and linguistic framing, and explore their greater implications for the personal, social, and natural spheres of life. Students will be able to discuss and write about the meaning of significant texts in relation to questions of classical and contemporary import in a way that meshes with overall program goals to develop critical thinking, enhance communication skills, and stimulate a love for lifelong learning.

Selection of authors and works explored in the Language strand


  • Rāmāyaṇa
  • Heart Sūtra
  • Amitābha Sūtra
  • Prajñā Pāramitā literature
  • Lotus Sūtra
  • Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
  • Avataṃsaka Sūtra
  • Vedas
  • Upaniṣads
  • Rāmāyaṇa
  • Mahābharata
  • Visuddhimagga
  • Nikāyas
  • Jātakas
  • Lalitavistara
  • Mahāvastu
  • Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya
  • Nāgārjuna, Madhyamakārikā
  • Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakośa
  • Aśvaghoṣa,Buddhacarita

Classical Chinese

  • Avataṃsaka Sūtra
  • Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
  • Heart Sūtra
  • Sūtra in Forty-Two Sections
  • Huineng, Sixth Patriarch Sūtra
  • Confucius
  • Mencius
  • Lao Tzu
  • Chuang Tzu