Dessislava Vendova

Dessi Vendova is a Ph.D. Candidate who entered the doctoral program in Religion at Columbia University in 2012 in the Buddhism sub-field. Dessi began her academic study of Chinese and Chinese studies back in 2000 enrolled as an undergraduate student at the Chinese Studies Department of Sofia University, in her native Bulgaria. In the Fall of 2001 with a full government scholarship she went to Beijing, China, where for the next 8 years she lived and studied, 7 of which she was enrolled in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University where in July 2006 she received her BA in Chinese Language and Literature and then in July 2009 she received her Master of Arts degree in Classical Chinese Literature specializing in the pre-Tang and Tang dynasty period.

After her graduation from Peking University, Dessi lived in Kyoto for 3 years where from October 2009 until April 2011, with a Japanese Government Research Student Scholarship (Monbukagakusho), she was enrolled as a research student in the Graduate School of Letters of Kyoto University.

For several years, Dessi has mainly researched the connection between Classical Chinese stories, Buddhist texts, and Buddhist “former birth stories” (jatakas) in particular. In both her BA and MA graduation theses (written in Chinese) she researched this topic and found it especially intellectually exhilarating and challenging and eliciting a passionate commitment. Her doctoral dissertation is a continuation and further and deeper exploration of some of the themes she began exploring during her studies in China.

The past few years since entering the PhD program at Columbia University, Dessi became even more focused on pursuing her research of Buddha's live stories (including his final life biography) and also of Buddhist art and archaeology related to them and they are the main focus of her doctoral dissertation titled: “The Great Life Story of the Body of Buddha: Re-examination and re-assessment of the images and narratives of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni,” which is an interdisciplinary and transregional study of the connections between textual and iconographic representations of the Buddha’s body, the Buddha’s lives stories and reassessment of their role and significance for the construction of early stupa sites and cave temples and the spread of Buddhism from India through Central Asia to China between 3 c. BCE to around 5-6 c. CE.


M.Phil. in Religion (2016, Columbia University)

M.A. in Religion (2014, Columbia University)

M.A. in Classical Chinese Literature (2009, Peking University)

B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature (2006, Peking University)


Research interests: Comparative and interdisciplinary study of Buddhism, Buddhist former births stories literature; the biography of the Buddha; Buddhist Art; Buddhist ethics; East Asian culture and literature.