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A 2012-2013 William Prize for best essay in East Asian Studies was awarded to Trevor Davis (Saybrook College '13) for his essay submitted to the History Department, “Pure Land and the Social Order in Twelfth-Century China: An Investigation of Longshu’s Treatise on Pure Land.” (Valerie Hansen, Professor of History, advisor.)

Davis' essay makes a powerful argument about the Pure Land Buddhist Wang Rixiu's understanding of Southern Song (1127-1279) society. Although Pure Land Buddhism is often thought to be egalitarian - or at least to challenge traditional hierarchies - Trevor shows that for Wang Rixiu, an egalitarian Pure Land coexists with a status-bound earthly society. Moreover, the different social levels on earth are fair, Wang believed, because they reflect the behavior of a given individual in all his or her previous lives. Trevor's close readings of Wang's commentaries on the 36 different social groups are particularly noteworthy, and provide excellent support for his thesis.