The University of Hamburg is the only place in Northern Germany where scholars of various Asian regions are working intensely in the field of Buddhism. The focus on Buddhism in Japanese Studies has, for instance, a history that dates back to 1936, when Wilhelm Gundert joined the faculty. The scholarship of Gundert, whose main interest was Chan/Zen Buddhism, and his disciple Oscar Benl contributed significantly to Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg. The appointment of Roland Schneider, who worked on literary forms of the Middle Ages that were strongly influenced by Buddhism, also led to the development of a Buddhist focus in Japanese Studies. Today Jörg B. Quenzer continues this cultural and intellectual tradition with his research on, among other things, biographical material of dream reports and the role of literary language in the transfer of Buddhist content.
When the Australian Ronald Eric Emmerick joined the faculty (1971-2001), a new Buddhist focus was introduced to Iranian Studies at Hamburg. With his work on Khotanese culture, which was greatly influenced by Buddhism, and the role of Khotan in the transmission of Buddhist literature, Professor Emmerick opened up the area of Buddhist research to Central Asia as well.
Additionally, the appointment of Michael Friedrich, a professor of Chinese Studies who specialized in the early reception of Buddhism in China, greatly expanded the regional scope of Buddhist Studies at Hamburg. He also examines the long-term impact of Buddhism on Chinese philosophy and descriptions of Chinese Buddhism in Confucian and modern historiography. The scholarship of Thai specialist/anthropologist Jan Terwiel (1992-2007) contributed to the Hamburg program's breadth as well.