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













    Paper Abstracts Download pdf>



Crossing a Boundary: Where, When, How
Lewis Lancaster, University of California at Berkeley; Director, Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative

The open questions of what constitutes a boundary and what strategies we can use to define one are challenging and important. For those of us in the Humanities, there is often a return to Aristotle and his definition that a boundary is “the first thing outside of which no part [of the thing] is to be found and the first thing inside of which every part [of the thing] is to be found.” In cultural studies, those exact boundaries between where a practice is found and where it is missing are fluid, and this frustrates our need to have clear-cut units of spaces. How, for example, can we draw boundaries in the oceans, where there are no surface phenomena to guide us? Over time, we have created disciplinary studies that rely on the ability to define East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia (but not “West” Asia, which remains “Eastern” Near/Far). In referring our data to these geographic units, partly based on contemporary national boundaries, there are troublesome problems. In many cases we are forced to accept the fact that some artifacts, language families, narratives, and rituals are found across Eurasia. The time has come to consider whether Eurasia should be used as a cultural boundary equal to the subdivisions that exist within its mapping. This would involve nothing short of a revolutionary restructuring of the study of art, religion, language, material culture, and social patterns. Perhaps the need in scholarship is not so much one of “crossing boundaries” as of redrawing them, or even eliminating some. The process by which we enter into a restructuring of boundaries will require cultural research to make use of branches of mathematics that provide formalized concepts for such things as convergence, connectedness, and continuity. The study of topological space in the age of digital technology will require teams of collaborating scholars in mathematics and geographic information systems, as well as the cultural content community. The convening of a conference dealing with these issues is long overdue, and we are indebted to the organizers for giving us the opportunity to explore these questions.

PART I Culture and History

SESSION I Silk Road Studies

The Sogdian Experience in China: Assimilation or Hybridization?
Albert Dien, Stanford University, Emeritus

In recent years the discovery of a number of burials of Sogdians resident in China has attracted much scholarly attention. Studies have appeared relating to Sogdian religious beliefs, burial customs, artistic motifs, kinship networks, and so on. What is proposed here is to examine the lifestyle of the Sogdians and also how they accommodated themselves to Chinese society and the role they played there. There has been an emphasis on assimilation of the minority populations in China, but an alternate consideration of hybridization offers new insights into that experience. The growing amount of information about the Sogdians, both archaeological and textual, offers an excellent focus for sorting out these issues.

Islamic Silver for Carolingian Reforms and the Buddha of Helgö: Rethinking Carolingian Connections with the East, 790–820
Eric Ramírez-Weaver, University of Virginia

Contrary to the historic thesis of Henri Pirenne that seventh-century Islamic invasions resulted in the collapse of late antique civilization, Islamic and Viking traders played an integral role in the development of Western early medieval culture during the period 790–820, linking East and West. Carolingian emissaries encountered Chinese exports in Baghdad during the state mission to the court of Harun al-Rashid in 802. Scandinavian-Viking traders also exchanged Islamic silver with Carolingian supporters in order to fund the reform efforts underway at Aachen. In fact, Scandinavian traders imported silks, furs, metals, and probably precious objects like the Kashmiri Buddha from Helgö, Sweden. In this paper I will explore these avenues for further research, which the complicated but illustrious Helgö Buddha encourages us to examine anew.

Images of Sun and Moon Gods at Dunhuang between the Sixth and Tenth Centuries
Yuanlin Zhang, Dunhuang Academy, China

The Sun God and the Moon God figure importantly in many cultures and religions. Representation of the Sun and Moon deities appear in different forms while certain elements remain constant. In the Dunhuang cave-temples, there are more than forty images of them depicted in the mural paintings, and another some sixty images painted on different materials discovered from the sealed library. Although the iconography of most of these images originates from traditional Chinese myths that include details such as Daoist immortals, some depictions include iconographic features that are similar to those of Surya (the sun god) in India, Mithra in Persia and Central Asia, as well as the gods from Greek myths. The similarities and differences in the depictions of sun and moon gods reflect the cultural, artistic, and religious interactions and integration among different civilizations in the medieval period.

From Hellenistic Scientific Device to Islamic Astrolabe: An Episode of Transmission of a Non-Chinese Scientific Instrument in Late Medieval China
Kam-Wing Fung, University of Hong Kong

An astrolabe imitates the motion of the heavens. Without stereographic projection the astrolabe is inconceivable. However, the origin and development of the method of stereographic projection remains unclear. The Planisphaerium by Claudius Ptolemy (85?–165 CE) is the only Hellenistic work on stereographic projection that has come down to the present day. This paper will examine the following topics: Hipparchus of Nicaea (190–125 BCE) and the discovery of stereographic projection; the Roman architect Vitruvius (died after 27 CE) and the anaphoric clock; the Roman portable sundial and stereographic projection; the Monophysitist Bishop Severus Sēbōkht (575?–666/667) and the Hellenistic-Roman style astrolabe; and the Persian astronomer Li Su 李素 (?–796), the Arabic astronomer Ma Yize 馬依澤 (910?–1005), and Islamic astrolabes.

Chinese Filial Cannibalism: A Silk Road Import?
Keith N. Knapp, The Citadel, South Carolina

Early Confucian philosophers thought that returning one’s body unblemished to the ancestors was a paramount filial duty. However, beginning in the Tang dynasty, there appear reports of filial cannibalism—namely, of feeding one’s own flesh to to one’s ailing parent to cure him or her. What are this idea’s origins, and why did medieval Chinese embrace it? I contend that Buddhist jātaka tales—narratives of the Buddha’s previous lives—inspired filial cannibalism. The jātaka that had the greatest impact on Chinese filiality was that of Sujati, who fed his flesh to his starving parents. Chinese found this story to be compelling because Confucians were already advocating that one should sacrifice everything for one’s parents. This sentiment ultimately led to the Confucian transformation of the jātaka: Sujati became Wang Wuzi’s wife who cuts off some of her own flesh to make a medicinal soup for her ailing mother-in-law. Hence what began in Central Asia as an ode to Buddhist compassion became in China an inspiration to filial cannibalism.

SESSION II Gender and Medieval China

Our Woman in Central Asia: Women Diplomats of the Han Court
Anne Kinney, University of Virginia 

Numerous women were sent to Central Asia in Han times on diplomatic missions. It is difficult to assess the sea change in attitudes toward foreign cultures in Tang times until we examine the very different and very negative perceptions of travelers in earlier centuries. My paper will narrow its focus to examine how women viewed these very foreign territories.

Ominous Dress: Hufu (Barbarian Clothing) during the Tang Dynasty (618–907)
Suzanne Cahill, University of California, San Diego

This paper investigates the “western look” in clothing styles during the Tang dynasty. The main primary sources are the “Monographs on Vehicles and Clothing” in the Old and New Tang Histories, along with Tang poetry, painting, and sculpture. Topics examined will include Chinese versus foreign identity as expressed through clothing, attitudes toward hufu in prescriptive texts such as the official histories of the Tang dynasty, gender and cross-dressing, and possible changes in receptiveness to foreign styles after the An Lushan Rebellion of 756.

Wu Zhao and the Mother of Laozi
Norman Harry Rothschild, University of North Florida 

While Buddhism played a pivotal role in the sovereignty of Wu Zhao, China’s first and only female emperor, her gender and the resultant precarious nature of her power forced her to deploy language, symbol, and ideology in a unique and creative way. To this end, she sought to reinforce her political authority with as many different ideologies—Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist—and modes of validation as possible. Thus Wu Zhao simultaneously affiliated herself with eminent paragons of both genders from every ideological persuasion. For instance, she looked to female Daoist divinities such as Nu Wa and the Queen Mother of the West, who played significant roles in buttressing her political authority. This paper will analyze the connection that Wu Zhao crafted between herself and Mother Li, the Mother of Laozi (the mythical founder of Daoism). Particularly as Grand Dowager, Wu Zhao utilized Mother Li’s identity as progenitor of the Li clan to situate herself symbolically as Queen Mother of the imperial clan—as a Li insider, rather than a Wu waiqi—to mute some of the criticisms that she was an illegitimate usurper.

Punishing the Unfilial: A Study of Tang and Song Legal Codes and Anecdotal Writing
Cong Zhang, University of Virginia

Through an examination of legal stipulations and anecdotal writing (biji), this paper traces changes in the official discourse on and popular practice of filial piety during the Tang and Song (960–1279) periods. Although the Tang and Song state used similar language to endorse filial deeds and to penalize the unfilial, the focuses of anecdotal writing were dramatically different during these two periods. Tang writers continued to follow the earlier practice of promoting filial piety through positive exemplars; their Song counterparts, however, paid increasing attention to unfilial sons and daughters-in-law. In particular, they identified a variety of punishments that were sanctioned by the government and by institutional and popular religions. These anecdotal stories shed light on contemporary notions about class and gender: although written by scholar-officials, stories about unfilial acts mostly featured the illiterate or semi-literate and often involved different punishments for men and women. At the same time that they upheld Confucian ideas on filial piety, the Song educated elite portrayed a society that was profoundly penetrated by Buddhist and popular beliefs, had a booming money economy, and tolerated unfilial behavior.

SESSION III Exchanges with Northeastern Neighbors

Models for the Heian Capital: Links between Japanese and Chinese Courtly Cultures
Joan Piggot, University of Southern California

To what extent did the Nara and early Heian courts and courtiers of Nihon pattern their courtly society after Tang Chinese ways, and how did that process proceed? There was strong influence, to be sure, but the influence was not always that of Tang, nor did the results replicate the Chinese. Yamatoites, like other peoples along China’s borders, began learning the ways of monarchy and much else from China during pre-Tang times, and that time depth is an important consideration. In this research I will examine a variety of unfamiliar source materials to gain a better sense of how eighth-century courtiers on the archipelago received Chinese ways while nevertheless sifting and adapting them according to their own circumstances and practices. In earlier work I identified three stages in this process, to which specific travelers to Tang China—the literatus-poet Yamanoue Okura, the monk Genbō, and the scholar-minister Kibi no Makibi—made contributions. In this paper I will argue that by the late eighth century the results had hardly made the Japanese court just like that in Tang China, as the presence in Nara of female sovereigns, divine sun-line kings, and unmitigated support for Buddhism amply demonstrate. Yet by 770 the last of classical Japan’s female sovereigns had expired, and her passing was a prominent sign that the Sinic ideal of male dominance in public life had taken firm hold in Nihon’s courtly mentalité. 

What Five Chinese Portraits Do for Early Heian Japan
Ryuichi Abe, Harvard University

Five portraits of Buddhist monks produced by the Tang court painter Li Chen and his studio were imported to Japan in 807 and submitted to the court of Emperor Heizei (774–824) by Kūkai (774–835), who founded Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. This paper traces the ritual use of these paintings in Japan and considers its significance for better understanding the relationship between the court and Buddhism in early Heian Japan. 

The Silla Envoy Poems in the Kaifūsō
Mack Horton, University of California at Berkeley

This paper will explore a set of verses in Japan’s first anthology of Chinese poetry, the Kaifūsō (Writings Yearning after the Old Style, 751), that were written in 719 by Prince Nagaya (684–729) and other members of the court for the banquet reception of a diplomatic party from the neighboring kingdom of Silla. One of the values of focusing on this event is the potential it has for leading us to reconsider the center-periphery paradigm used to describe cultural and political relations within East Asia in the eighth century, by exploring relations between two polities on this periphery that shared specific cultural traditions vis-à-vis the use of literary Chinese. In approaching this topic, the paper will focus on (1) about the nature of poetic composition and reception at the banquet; (2) the banquet’s cultural and political significance vis-à-vis relations between Silla and Japan at the time; and (3) its relation to the internal politics of the Japanese court. 

What Is in a Place Name? Chinese Poetic Places on the Map of Early Japanese Literature
Wiebke Denecke, Barnard College/Columbia University

Famous places associated with important personages, events, or numinous scenic beauty have played a prominent role in the poetic production of East Asia. When the Japanese set out to record poetry in the late seventh and eighth centuries, they had their own map of significant places that called for poetic composition, but they also inherited a whole map of poetically pregnant places from the corpus of almost two millennia of Chinese literature. This led to a partial construction of a double poetic landscape, where Chinese names and poetic associations were plotted onto Japanese locations, so that the majestic landscape of Yoshino, outside of Nara—associated with powerful Yamato monarchs—could become the “Luo River,” and the Japanese capital could be the Chinese Eastern capital of “Luoyang.” This paper explores the poetic implications of this double landscape through a variety of Japanese and Sino-Japanese texts (kanshibun) from the eighth through the early tenth centuries. It examines why it was desirable to choose Chinese names for Japanese locations, how clashes between descriptions of those places in Chinese texts and the reality of the Japanese locations were negotiated, and how the imaginary double poetic landscape was shaped by the political and poetic preoccupations of its Japanese authors. 

Abe no Nakamaro at the End of the Silk Road
Gustav Heldt, University of Virginia

My paper will explore the life and after-life of Abe no Nakamaro (698–770). A student in the Japanese diplomatic delegation of 716, Nakamaro entered the service of Emperor Xuanzong (685–762) and attained high posts after becoming the only Japanese person to ever pass the Tang civil service examination in 727. He was so accomplished in Chinese that he even struck up a literary friendship with the High Tang poets Wang Wei and Li Bai. In Japan in the first half of the tenth century, Ki no Tsurayuki (872–945) would represent Nakamaro as a proponent of universal literary values in his Tosa Diary, where Nakamaro is seen explaining the history of Japanese poetry to his Chinese peers. By that time, in both China and Japan, the cosmopolitan reign of Xuanzong was an object of nostalgia, a lost age of exoticism. In comparing the historical Nakamaro with Tsurayuki’s representation of him, this paper will consider the changes in the perception of him between the eighth and tenth centuries.

PART II Art and Religion

SESSION IV New Buddhist Communities in Asia

How Buddhism Came to China
Victor Mair, University of Pennsylvania 

Although we know that Buddhism arose in India during the second half of the first millennium BCE and took root in China during the first half of the first millennium CE, numerous questions remain about the precise mechanisms by which the religion was transmitted to East Asia. Many scholars, following Erik Zürcher’s lead, maintain that there is virtually no evidence for Buddhism in Central Asia during the early medieval period, and that the religion would have spread to East Asia from India only by means of “long distance” travel. Another vital question, posed most cogently by Rong Xinjiang, is whether Buddhism came to East Asia primarily by sea or by land. There are many other crucial problems that need to be factored into any comprehensive, satisfactory approach to the problem: Why were so many of the early translators who translated from Sanskrit into Chinese themselves Iranians? In what way was Western Central Asia, whence the Iranians would ultimately have derived, involved in the process? How do we account for the fact that some of the earliest Buddhist-inspired sculpture in China is from the southwest and the northeast? Although much good work has been done on these various aspects of Buddhism’s transmission to China, the aim of this paper will be to combine the latest and best research results into an integral whole.

Buddhism and the Maritime Silk Road
Tansen Sen, Baruch College; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

This paper will focus on the Buddhist exchanges between ancient China and southern Asia through the maritime networks. By examining at the early phases (third–fourth centuries) of the transmission of Buddhist ideas through the maritime routes, the travels of Indian and Chinese monks, and the intimate relationship between Buddhism and seafaring traders, the paper will attempt to outline the significance of the maritime networks to the Buddhist exchanges between ancient India and ancient China. It will also underscore some of the key differences between the maritime and the overland Buddhist networks of exchange and interactions. The paper will conclude with an analysis of the reverse transmission of Buddhism, especially the reverse transmission of the Mañjuśrī cult during the Tang period.

A Preliminary Study of Exchange in Buddhist Art between Medieval China and Southern India and Southeast Asia
Yumin Lee, National Palace Museum, Taipei

Buddhism originated in India, and many scholars have researched the relationship between early Chinese Buddhist art and that of central and northwest India as well as Central Asia. In ancient Chinese texts, however, there are numerous records of foreign monks who came from southern India, Sri Lanka, and the Indochinese Peninsula, as well as Chinese high monks returning to China through these areas. The present study attempts to use these ancient Chinese texts and surviving cultural relics to explore the relationships in Buddhist culture between medieval China and southern India, Sri Lanka, and countries on the Indochinese Peninsula.

A Niche of Their Own: The Buddhists of Bao Shan
Wendi L. Adamek, Stanford Humanities Center

The site known as Bao shan 寶山 in Henan province is comprised of a rich network of rock-cut caves, devotional and memorial inscriptions, reliquary niches with portrait-statues, and references to former temples, monasteries, and convents. In this paper I trace the various lines of movement that intersect and connect the devotional constructions of the site, focusing on the sixth and seventh centuries. On the one hand I discuss conventional understandings of the stylistic and doctrinal features of the site, and on the other hand I draw connections between the construction of Bao shan and contemporary theories of the interplay between human and non-human agents. Drawing from recent studies in complex systems, particularly Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory and Tim Ingold’s presentation of “livelihood, dwelling, and skill,” I explore such topics as the emergence of Buddhist universality from the network of human and non-human actors, notions of “the path” inscribed through landscape and liturgy, and the link between technical skills (carving and inscription) and the technologies of self/no-self in Buddhist “skillful means.”

The Exchange of Letters between Zhili and Genshin
Paul Groner, University of Virginia

Siming Zhili 四明知礼 (960–1028) played a major role in the renaissance of Tiantai learning in China. Genshin 源信 (942–1017) was probably the most learned monk in Japan in the early eleventh century. Although both these monks were major figures in a historically linked Buddhist tradition, their respective schools had developed in ways that reflected the needs of their cultures and historical circumstances. The two men were aware of each other. Genshin sent his famous book on Pure Land, the Ōjō yōshū 往生要集 (Essentials of Rebirth), and a manual on Buddhist logic to China. The Ōjō yōshū may have influenced the Pure Land societies that Zhili established in China. This paper will investigate a set of questions on Buddhist doctrine that Genshin sent to China and Zhili’s answers. It will focus on whether the questions reflected some of the Japanese preoccupations on certain issues and the ways in which Japanese Tendai differed from its Chinese counterpart. In examining the Chinese answers, the focus will be on whether Zhili correctly understood the Japanese preoccupation with certain questions and whether his answers reflected some of the new Tiantai ideas developed under his leadership.

SESSION V Image, Ritual, and Text in Esoteric Buddhism

Dhāraṇī Pillars in China: Function and Symbol
Liying Kuo, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris

The so-calleddhāraṇī pillar is a stone column composed of several sections: its socle and upper portion are sometimes sculpted as lotus petals and Buddha images; the main section, generally octagonal, is engraved with Buddhist sūtras, or with particular formulas known as dhāraṇī or mantra, typically followed by a dedicatory text or eulogies with references to both lay and religious donors. These pillars were built to soteriologically benefit both living and deceased laity and clergy. I discuss my current database of 270 pillars dating from 697 to 1285, which together provide a multiplicity of documentation for the role of these objects in Chinese Buddhism in terms of scriptures, practice, religio-political functions, and socio-economic uses. This introduction to dhāranī pillars is followed by a discussion of the interesting word chuang (“banner”), used to self-designate these dhāraṇī pillars from their very inception. The paper concludes with an examination of the iconography of several Dunhuang wall paintings illustrating the Sūtra on the Dhāraṇī of Victory from the Buddha’s Head-Summit (Buddhoṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī sūtra), the scripture which constitutes the central inscription on most dhāraṇī pillars.

“Whosoever writes this dhāraṇī …”: The Ritual Use of Dhāraṇī Lecterns in Medieval East Asia
Neil Schmid, North Carolina State University

The Uṣṇīṣavijayādhāraṇī-sūtra (Foding zunsheng tuoluoni jing,T967) specifically calls for the creation and display of dhāraṇī in highly visible settings as a means of furthering the Dharma, gaining merit, and improving the well-being of others. From the late seventh century on, stone “dhāraṇī pillars” (jingchuang)were erected throughout China to this end. Yet despite their ubiquity in China itself, dhāraṇī pillars never appear in the dozens of paintings from the Tang and early Song periods at Mogao, most especially those images illustrating the prescriptive acts of the sutra itself, the Foding zunsheng tuoluoni jingbian. This paper argues that in fact these bianxiang (transformation tableaux) do show the sutra being displayed, but in the unique form of sutra lecterns. Appearing only in the illustrations of the Uṣṇīṣavijayādhāranī-sūtra in Mogao caves (e.g., nos. 23, 31, 55, 454), these extraordinary ritual objects iconographically index the performance, agency, and foreign nature of the dhāraṇī. This evidence in turn permits the identification of an additional illustration of the Uṣṇīṣavijayādhāranī-sūtra at Mogao that was previously mislabeled. The full significance of these ritual lecterns is further explored by examining examples both from the Shōsōin collection and from late Roman and Byzantine West Asia, which bear striking resemblances in form, style, and iconic function to those from Dunhuang.

Concerning the Role and Iconography of the Astral Deity Sudṛṣti (Miaojian 妙見) in Chinese Esoteric Buddhism
Henrik H. Sørensen, Independent Scholar, Denmark

In the course of the introduction of Buddhism to China, different Indian and Central Asian traditions involving astral lore were imported and absorbed into the receiving culture in varying degrees. Most were already embedded in the canonical Buddhist literature before arriving in China. Those that gained sufficient popularity and importance in China underwent considerable modifications so as to fit better with already existing concepts and local traditions on astral beliefs and practices. This paper examines the cult surrounding one such astral divinity, the bodhisattva Sudṛṣti (Ch. Miaojian 妙見, Jap. Myōken), believed to be the personification of Ursa Major, the Great Dipper, an important stellar deity who controls the destinies of sentient beings in Esoteric Buddhism. Sudṛṣti became prominent in Tang China and underwent further transformations and transmutations in Heian Japan.

Daoist Elements in Esoteric Buddhist Texts of the Tang Dynasty
Clarke Hudson, University of Virginia

This paper is about translation and borrowing between Indian and Chinese cultures in the early Tang. As the great Indian Esoteric Buddhist masters of the Tang were ostensibly “translating” Indian texts, how much Chinese cultural material did they add? Xiao Dengfu has argued in several books that they added a lot. Some of Xiao’s claims are confirmed by other scholars, but most have never been evaluated. Some of these are convincing enough to change our understanding of Tang Esoteric Buddhism. I will offer new conclusions about what Esoteric Buddhists adopted from Chinese culture, what they did not adopt, and why. 

SESSION VI The Cult of Avalokiteśvara

Interstices of Compassion: Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in China, Central Asia, and India from the Fifth to the Tenth Century
Denise Patry Leidy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Analysis of the introduction of different forms of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (or Guanyin) from the late fifth to the late sixth century in China provides a useful paradigm for the study of the evolution of this seminal divinity throughout Asia. The earliest Chinese representations of the bodhisattva include the two most long-standing forms: that in which the bodhisattva is identified by an image of the Buddha Amitābha in his headdress; and Avalokiteśvara holding a lotus. Both are found in the late fifth century. By the mid-sixth, new types have emerged, including representations of Avalokiteśvara adorned with astonishing jewel harnesses, and images holding a jewel in their hands. Unlike the earlier icons, these mid-sixth-century examples have no parallels in India or Central Asian traditions. The late sixth- and early seventh-century icons showing the bodhisattva with a water bottle and a willow branch, in contrast, are among the earliest extant examples of this iconography, and help elucidate later Indian traditions.

Avalokiteśvara Images at Candi Borobudur
Takashi Koezuka, Osaka University

At the Candi Borobudur in Central Java, the main wall of the second gallery is carved with 128 panels of stone reliefs that narrate the Pilgrimage of Sudhana based on the Gaṇḍhavyūha. The pictorial narrative, which continues to the third and fourth galleries, begins with Sudhana’s journey to visit fifty-three spiritual friends, ending with the pilgrim reaching the tower of Bodhisattva Maitreya. Avalokiteśvara is one of Sudhana’s good friends, and is shown in four panels. In the text, Sudhana visits Avalokiteśvara only once on Mount Potalaka. However, on Borobudur Avalokiteśvara is shown four times: in a two-armed form, a six-armed form, and two four-armed forms. There seems no specific purpose in representing Avalokiteśvara in a variety of ways. Rather, the multi-armed manifestations of this bodhisattva suggest the impact of Esoteric Buddhism on Central Java at the time when Borobudur was built, from the late eighth to the mid-ninth century. As a result, the pictorial narrative based on the important Mahāyāna text of Gaṇḍhavyūha also incorporates the newly introduced esoteric iconography of Avalokiteśvara images. 

Pilgrimage and the Expanding Territory of Kannon
Sherry Fowler, University of Kansas

In Japan, many temples with a central icon of Kannon (Avalokiteśvara) had organized themselves by the sixteenth century into thirty-three-stop pilgrimage routes. The most well known routes are Saikoku, Chichibu, and Bandō, which have extensive routes that wind from temples in isolated wooded countryside to bustling shopping districts in large cities. Thirty-three has significance as the number of manifestations that Kannon can take, as described in the Lotus Sutra. Examples of paintings that depict all manifestations of the Thirty-Three Kannon together are found in Nōman’in in Nara (fourteenth century), Honpōji in Toyama (fourteenth century), and the Tokyo National Museum (fifteenth century). Yet if we consider the identities of each Kannon icon along the pilgrimage routes, they rarely match any of the Lotus Sutra manifestations. Instead, we find that each one is usually one of the Six Kannon. Beginning in the tenth century, Six Kannon were grouped together as the focus of a cult to protect beings on the six paths. At the time this cult faded in the sixteenth century, the Thirty-Three Kannon pilgrimage cults began to flourish. By linking temples together in pilgrimage routes, new alliances for Kannon were formed using old images, and the worship of Kannon was thus expanded from an elite to a popular practice through the physical movement of pilgrims and the concept of a unified geographic sphere.

Continued Engagements: Further Thoughts on the Significance of Compassion
Janice Leoshko, University of Texas, Austin

Later images of Avalokiteśvara have been acknowledged but not fully considered for what they might reveal about changing conceptions of compassion. A close examination of what happened after the establishment of Avalokiteśvara imagery in eastern India shows moves from ascetic yet powerful forms (i.e., Siṃhanāda, and thus shared features with developments in Shaivite traditions) to more specifically mystical forms (i.e., Ṣaḍakṣarī, and thus shared features with dhāraṇī and sādhana practices) as well as a more “generic” form (which may reveal the concomitant rise of female forms—in the Hindu shakti, i.e., Durgā, and in the Buddhist Tārā). Furthermore, it is interesting to consider that these forms mostly did not take, or catch on, in other lands. However, the prevalence of Tārā in Himalayan traditions as well as gender modifications for Avalokiteśvara do reveal some interesting possibilities about the reception of later Indian ideas.

Digital Projects in Asian Art and Humanities Workshop


A Footprint and Prospect of Digital Studies on Buddhist Culture: from Digital Museum via Spatial-temporal Information System to Science 2.0
Huimin Bhiksu, President, Dharma Drum Buddhist College; Taipei National University of the Arts; Director, Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association

In this presentation I would like to share my nearly ten years’ experience participating in digital studies of Buddhist culture. From 1999 to 2004 I was involved in the project “Digital Museum—the World of Xuanzang and Silk Road” which used tools for web-page design such as HTML, SGML, XML, Dhtml, Flash, Java, and Javascript. The “Spatial-temporal Information System in Biography of Chinese Buddhist Eminent Monks” project (2005) incorporated the Geographic Information System (GIS) and the TimeMap developed by the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI), while the “Buddhist Temples in Taiwan GIS”(2007) used the Dharma Drum Buddhist College (DDBC) Authority Databases to integrate information from various projects at the Library and Information Center of the college. By providing information on Chinese calendar dates, as well as a dictionary of personal and place names from Buddhist sources, the latter project is designed to aid with disambiguation and geo-spatial referencing of names and dates. This data is openly available through various web-services, including a Google search plug-in for Firefox. As Professor Lancaster has said, “Lives could be treated as a series of events, each event represented by a ‘tuple’.” A tuple refers to part of a relation that marks up an entity and its attributes in a relational database. That is: action (WHAT) in time (WHEN) in a place (WHERE) in relation to others (WHO). A remaining issue, however, is how to build up digital databases offering more efficient and comprehensive knowledge for the study of motives (WHY) and means (HOW) with regards to specific events. Moreover, to adapt to the interactive and sharing environment of this Web 2.0 age, we expect the contents will be generated through the participation of individual users, and be shared over time through blogs, shared tagging, wiki, and social networks. Our hope is to work towards developing an open environment for academic studies on Buddhist culture that will be more collaborative and efficient than traditional academic studies.


IDP: Mapping Silk Road Exploration, Art, Culture, and Landscape
Susan Whitfield, International Dunhuang Project (IDP), The British Library

The boundaries of medieval China were possibly more fluid than at any other point in China’s history, especially for artistic and cultural crossings. Over the past couple of years IDP’s European partners, along with institutions in Gansu and Xinjiang, have been working together to map some of these interactions. One part of this has been the creation and mapping of object biographies using the IDP database and Google Earth layers. These trace the story of archaeological artifacts, manuscripts, and photographs from their conception through their creation and their subsequent history, both in Asia and Europe. This presentation will introduce some of these biographies and, more generally, the work of IDP in this area.

Silk Road: The Path of Transmission of Avalokiteśvara
Dorothy C. Wong, University of Virginia

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that provided a bridge between the East and the West in the pre-modern period. But more than that, the Silk Road was a channel for the transmission of ideas, religious faiths, technologies, and artistic forms and styles, with far-reaching impact in many cultures linked by these routes. Using the Silk Road as a spatial template and employing digital technologies, this project explores the path of transmission of Avalokiteśvara (one of the most popular Buddhist deities) in an interactive presentation that allows for comparison of representations of this cultic deity across geographic areas and over time, in turn generating new understanding of how Avalokiteśvara spread throughout Asia.

The Digital Archive of Buddhist Rubbings at Academia Sinica, Taipei
Juying Shih, Academia Sinica, Institute of History and Philology

There are about 4,000 pieces of ink-rubbings of Buddhist statues and steles in the collection of the Fu Ssu-nian Library at Academia Sinica. A majority of these rubbings are from Chinese provinces, such as Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Gansu. These rubbings date from the fifth century to modern times. In addition, several rubbings are from foreign countries, such as from inscriptions on Śākyamuni and Bhaiśajyaguru statues in the Golden Hall of the Hōryūji in Japan. The seals on the rubbings identify the former collectors, including Gui Fu, Duan Fang, Zhou Xingyi, Xu Naichang, Ke Changsi, Pan Zuyin, and Liu Xihai. Some of the rubbings were collected by Mr. Shi Zhangru of the Institute during his fieldwork in Yao County, Shaanxi, in the 1940s. The writings recorded in the rubbings provide important religious and social historical data; they record the wishes of the sponsors, the reasons for making statues, and the organizations of members. This presentation explores the interactive features of the online database of this important collection.

Visualizing and Querying the Biographies of Eminent Monks
Marcus Bingenheimer, Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taipei

The collections of hagio-biographies of eminent Buddhist monks are among the most important and widely used sources for the study of Chinese Buddhism. Our project uses XML/TEI markup to encode the four largest of these collections, the Gaosengzhuan 高僧傳 of the Liang, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties. Combined with the DDBC authority databases of dates and Buddhist places and persons (http://authority.ddbc.edu.tw/), the encoded corpus allows us to visualize the information contained in these texts in innovative and productive ways. The project’s aims are: (1) To provide researchers with tools that provide answers to questions which cannot be asked of traditional reference tools, and to visualize these results in a GIS-like manner. These might be query parameters, such as “Show on a map who was active in Zhejiang province during the Tang dynasty, according to collection Y,” or “Show all places the monk Xuanzang passed through on his way to India, according to collection Z.” (2) To create interfaces where researchers and the interested public can read the biographies and have immediate access to information about persons, places, and dates. This is mainly achieved by embedding Google Earth to create interactive maps and connecting person and place names to our database. (3) To provide an open-licensed, marked-up corpus that can be used and modified by other researchers to interrogate the texts in new ways. The project is online at: http://buddhistinformatics.ddbc.edu.tw/gaosenggis/.

Mapping the Dalai Lamas
Kurtis Schaeffer, University of Virginia

The Dalai Lamas are arguably the most important leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, so much so that it is not possible to understand Tibetan history since 1600 without understanding the institution of the Dalai Lamas. The biographies of the Dalai Lamas are the most important resources for understanding the history of the Dalai Lamas as individuals, as members of an ecclesiastic and political institution, and as subjects of literary and rhetorical invention. And yet these challenging works of literature have received scant and theoretically inadequate attention within contemporary scholarship. “Mapping the Dalai Lamas” intends to integrate digital texts of classical Tibetan-language biographies with digital animated maps, timelines, and images, in order to present significant events in the lives of the Dalai Lamas as well as reveal hitherto unnoticed connections between biographical events, geographic location, social and historical context, and literary and rhetorical expression.

The Process of Creating a Digital Edition
Christian Wittern, Kyoto University

This presentation examines the process of creating a digital edition, including the necessary tools but also covering some theoretical assumptions that have to be made clear. I will use material from my work-in-progress digital edition of the tenth-century Zutangji 祖堂集 (Anthology of the Patriarchs’ Hall), and will also make references to an ongoing project of digitizing the Qing-dynasty (1644–1911) Daoist collection Daozang jiyao 道藏輯要.



Prayer sheet with image of Amitābha Buddha
China, 10th century
From the Sealed Library at Dunhuang,
Mogao Cave-temples
Woodblock print, ink on paper
30 x 19 cm
British Library: Or.8210/P.14
This image is reproduced by permission of the British Library Board, © The British Library, and can be freely viewed online on the website of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP)