dear Colleagues,

I have just read a most fascinating book, which may escape attention having been published in a rather out of the way place.

The book is Urs App's The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy. (ISBN 978-3-906000-09-1.)

App traces Western awareness of Buddhist doctrinal ideas to the 16th [sic!] century, when missionaries encountered Zen Buddhists in Japan, and demonstrates how over the next few centuries these encounters and others spawned an awareness of philosophical [doctrinal might be better often times] systems outside of the European tradition. The story of what indeed was known and how that knowledge was used and manipulated is absolutely amazing.
I have no intention of offering a summary or review here, although the book, which picks up themes also discussed in App's The Birth of Orientalism, richly deserves attention. Among other things the careful archival research demonstrates that what one reads in the works of more superficial scholars about European awareness of Buddhism (and to a lesser extent in this book, Hinduism) is in drastic need of revision.
I got my copy from the author, but he directs me to the publisher's site, UniversityMedia  (

I should probably note that I have had nothing to do with the production of this book, that I do not profit from it other than from having gained knowledge through having read it, and that other than being a friend of the author I have no stake in its promotion (other than wishing for the wide spread of its insights).

With cordial regards, Jonathan Silk

J. Silk
Instituut Kern / Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
Johan Huizinga Building, Room 1.37
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
The Netherlands