Morten Schlütter

Associate Professor, Chinese Religion and Buddhist Studies

Dr. Schlütter joined the Department of Religious Studies in 2003.

His research interests center broadly on Chinese Buddhism (especially Chan [Jpn.: Zen] Buddhism) and Chinese religions, and he has worked on a number of different topics and periods, employing a range of methodologies. What unites his work is an overall interest in trying to understand different aspects of Chinese religion in the broader context of their political, social and economic settings. Much of Dr. Schlütter’s work has focused on Buddhism in the Song dynasty (960-1279), and in 2008 he published a book on crucial developments within Chan Buddhism which came to dominate Chinese monastic Buddhism by the tenth century. He is also working on a long-term project concerned with how Buddhist monastic communities in Southern-Song China (1127-1279) interacted with secular elite society, and has written essays on meditation and Buddhism in the modern world.

Currently, Dr. Schlütter is working on a book manuscript on the Platform Sūtra, a key scripture of the Chan school attributed to the so-called Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638–713). The Platform Sūtra is unique among Chinese Buddhist texts in that several significantly different versions of it are extant, spanning the early formation of Chan in the eighth century to its mature form in the thirteenth century. Dr. Schlütter is using the different versions of the Platform Sūtra as a window through which a number of crucial changes and developments within Chan Buddhism can be observed, providing a new perspective on its evolution.


he, him, his

Research interests

  • Chinese religions
  • Buddhist studies

Selected publications

For a complete list, please see Dr. Schlütter's CV:

  • Readings of the Platform Sūtra. Co-edited with Stephen F. Teiser. Readings of Buddhist Literature series. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.
  • How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China. Monograph of the Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 22. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008 (Indian edition: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2009; Second printing in paperback, University of Hawai’i Press, 2010)
  • “Buddhism in the Digital World,” in Mario Poceski, ed., Blackwell Companion to East and Inner Asian Buddhism. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  • “Transmission and Enlightenment in Chan Buddhism Seen Through the Platform Sūtra.” Chung-hwa Buddhist Journal, No. 21 (2007): 379-410.
  • “Vinaya Monasteries, Public Abbacies, and State Control of Buddhism under the Northern Song (960-1127).” In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya, edited byWilliam Bodiford. Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press, 2005, 136-160.
  • “The Record of Hongzhi and the Recorded Sayings Literature of Song-Dynasty Chan.” In The Zen Canon, edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 181-205.
  • “‘Before the Empty Eon’ versus ‘A Dog has no Buddha-nature’: Kung-an Use in the Ts'ao-tung Tradition and Ta-hui's Kung-an Introspection Ch’an.” In The Kōan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism, edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000,168-199.


  • “The Evolution of Meditation in the Platform Sūtras.” Conference on Ritual and Contemplative Practices in Chinese Religions (500 to 1500 CE), Elling O. Eide Center Research Library and Preserve, and the University of Florida, Jan 27-30, 2022.
  • “On the Evolution of the Platform Sūtra and its Transmission to Korea.” International Conference: “Transmission o Buddhism in Asia and Beyond,”Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies, with the assistance of the  FROGBEAR Project based at the University of British Columbia and Princeton University, July 4–6, 2020 (on Zoom).
  • Keynote address: “The Life of Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157) and his Relations with Song-dynasty Officials,” Hangzhou Buddhist Culture conference, Jiliang University (in cooperation with Zhejiang University, Lingyin Monastery & Hangzhou Buddhist Academy, and the University of Arizona), May 16-18, 2019.
  • “On the Evolution of the Platform Sūtra.” Professor Stanley Weinstein Memorial Symposium: Stanley Weinstein’s Legacy in the Study of East Asian Buddhism. Komazawa University, Tokyo, Japan, December 15-16, 2018.
  • “On the Evolution of Meditation in Chinese Zen Buddhism.” Department of Religious Studies, Duke University. Oct. 3, 2018.
  • “The Transmission of the Platform Sūtra to Korea and Japan.” Creating the World of Chan/Sŏn/Zen conference, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Arizona, March 28-April 1, 2018.
  • “Precepts and Formlessness in the Evolving Chan (Zen) Tradition.” Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary, Canada. Feb. 8, 2018.

Courses taught

Dr. Schlütter regularly teaches courses on Buddhism and Chinese Religions. Many are cross-listed with the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures.

  • RELS:1404 / 032:006/039:006 Introduction to Buddhism
  • RELS:1404 Living Religions of the East
  • RELS:5200 Varieties of Religion in a Contemporary World
  • 032:005/039:005 Asian Religious Classics
  • 032:010/039:007 Chinese Religions
  • 032:188/039:170 Zen Buddhism
  • 032:237/039:237 Seminar: East Asian Religion
  • 032:202 Asian Religious Traditions
  • 032:208 Asian Religions Colloquium
  • 032:231 Seminar: Religion and Society
  • 032:265 Readings in Asian Religions

Service and public engagement

  • Co-chair of search committee: C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Hua Hsia Chair in Chinese Culture and Institutions. (2021-2022).
  • Served on promotion and tenure review committee for Kendall Heitzman, Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Iowa. (2018).
  • Chair of search committee: C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies. (Search successfully concluded with
    the hire of Hyaeweol Choi, Department of Religious Studies). (2017-2018).
  • Co-organizer with Aron Aji of “Translation in the Humanities,” Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Working Group. (2017--)
  • Lead faculty member, Engagement “pillar” action team, IP Advisory Council Internationalization vision and strategic plan. (2016)

Awards, honors, and grants

  • Principal Investigator, Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support Program Grant in Japanese Studies. Total value ca. $700,000. (2016-2019)
  • Career Development Award. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The University of Iowa. Spring semester. (2015).
  • Fellow at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. Fall and Spring semesters.
  • 2009 Career Development Award. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The University of Iowa. Fall semester. (2009-2010).
  • Dean's Scholar, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The University of Iowa, 2008-10.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, 2000-01.
  • Society for the Promotion of Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, Japan, 1993-95.
Portrait of Morten Schlütter
PhD, Yale University
Contact Information

311 Gilmore Hall (GILH)
112 N. Capitol Street
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States