Jack Meng-Tat Chia is Assistant Professor of History and Religious Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is a historian of religion whose research has focused on Buddhism and Chinese popular religion. He specializes in Buddhism in maritime Southeast Asia and has broader research interests in migration, diasporas, transnationalism, pilgrimage, and religious diplomacy. His first book, Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea (Oxford, 2020), explores the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and Southeast Asia in the twentieth century. It is the first study to offer a history of what he terms “South China Sea Buddhism,” referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and the organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Monks in Motion won the 2021 EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize. He is currently working on two book projects: Beyond the Borobudur: Buddhism in Postcolonial Indonesia and Diplomatic Dharma: Buddhist Diplomacy in Modern Asia.
Chia is an associate of the Religion and Globalization Cluster at the Asia Research Institute and a steering committee member of the Belt and Road Initiative Cluster at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He is an editor of Asian Culture, and serves on the editorial boards of Contemporary Buddhism, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Reading Religion, and Studies on Humanistic Buddhism.
Born and raised in Singapore, Chia received his PhD in History at Cornell University, where his dissertation won the Lauriston Sharp Prize. He earned his BA (Hons) and MA from the National University of Singapore and his second MA from Harvard University, where he was a Harvard-Yenching Fellow. Before teaching at NUS, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
He is married to Dr. Ming-Yen Lee, a Senior Lecturer of Music at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.