Cultural Crossings

University of Virginia . March 11–13, 2010


China and Beyond in the Medieval Period Conference



Digital Projects in Asian Art and Humanities Workshop













Detail from an illustrated sutra of the Miracles of Avalokiteśvara (Kannon). Japan, Kamakura period, dated 1257. Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper. Purchase, Louisa Eldridge McBurney Gift, 1953 (53.7.3). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



About the Conference and Workshop

Coinciding with the exhibition, “Treasures Rediscovered: Chinese Stone Sculptures from the Sackler Collections at Columbia University,” to be held at the University of Virginia Art Museum (January 15–March 14, 2010), “Cultural Crossings: China and Beyond in the Medieval Period” combines an international conference with a workshop on digital projects to investigate exchanges between China and neighboring cultures during the medieval period (third–tenth centuries) from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Since its establishment in the first century of the common era, the Silk Road was a channel for the transmission of ideas, technologies, and artistic forms, with far-reaching impact that stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic. In Asia, the transmission of religious faiths along the Silk Road—most notably Buddhism—had a profound impact on the ideas, material culture, and languages of the region. During this period, Buddhism spread eastward from India via both land and maritime routes. By the end of the seventh century, the center of the Buddhist world had shifted to China, where Indian and Central Asian Buddhist monks gathered at the capitals of the Tang (618–907) dynasty. Diplomatic missions and pilgrim-monks from the kingdoms of Korea and Japan brought this religion and other aspects of Chinese civilization back to their own countries. The fruits of these exchanges were manifested in an increasingly uniform and international Buddhist idiom, along with other cultural elements that still remain to be explored in depth. 

The “Cultural Crossings” conference intends to open new avenues for research into these complex and far-reaching exchanges by breaking down traditional national and disciplinary boundaries. By bringing together specialists of the period who are engaged in research in such diverse areas as Silk Road studies, history, literature, gender, art, and religion of the region—and putting them into productive dialogue with one another—we hope to identify areas of common interest that can foster new approaches. Understanding of transnational exchanges in such historical contexts, moreover, deepens our appreciation of the modern world from a global perspective.  

Taking advantage of the gathering of scholars from a wide range of disciplines at the conference, the Institute for Advanced Technology in Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia will also host a half-day workshop (March 13) to focus on collaborative scholarship that has the potential to enhance existing related digital projects in Asian art and humanities.  


Within the University of Virginia, funding for the conference and workshop has been provided by: Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities Grant, East Asia Center, Medieval Studies Program, Page-Barbour Interdisciplinary Initiative Grant, University of Virginia Art Museum, and Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation Grant. Additional generous support has been provided by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, Taiwan, and the Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taipei.

Conference Organizer: Dorothy Wong, Chinese Art History; Co-Organizers: Gustav Heldt, Japanese Literature, and Eric Ramìrez-Weaver, Medieval Art History; Coordinator: Anna Kim, PhD Candidate in Renaissance Art History; Web-site maintenance: Daniel Weiss, PhD candidate in Classical Art and Archaeology; additional administrative assistance is provided by: Graham Odell and Margaret Bierwirth, the East Asia Center, and student volunteers 

Contact information: email us

(Contact information : culturalcrossings at email dot virginia dot edu)