2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 139

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Word and Image--Medieval Art of China

Organizer and Chair: Lidu Yi, Florida International University, USA

Discussant: Dorothy C. Wong, University of Virginia, USA

Word and Image This panel examines the relationship between word and image, doctrines and visual representations, invention and interpretation. The papers in this panel discuss medieval Chinese art with a focus on doctrines and medieval art of Buddhist caves and temples, and magic words inscribed on mountains. Li Yuqun’s paper examines the two newly discovered central-pillar caves with many doctrines in Tuyuk, Xinjiang, northwestern China in 2010, and argues that the caves were executed during the 5th century and are closely linked with the caves along the Hexi Corridor and those in Kucha region. Haruo Yagi re-examines Cave 220 of Dunhuang and discusses the close link between doctrine and the south wall painting of Cave 220 and argues that the south wall painting was inspired by the Amitayur-dhyana Sutra of the Pure Land, and yet was an artist invention. Lidu Yi reads the iconography of the Cheng’an Shayamuni image which was discovered in 1997 in Cheng’an County, Hebei province and suggests that the Amitayus Buddha image on the reverse side of the Shakyamuni image represents the earliest thus far found from the Northern Wei period, and proposes that the Pure Land represented is substantially different from that of the Northern Wei capital Pingcheng. Lei Xue addresses the issues on Yiheming or Epitaph to a Crane, an inscription carved on a cliff on Jiaoshan Island in the Yangzi River and concludes that it is not a real funeral object but a symbolic expression of the misfortunes of its author.

Undiscovered Art Treasures Newly Found
Yuqun Li, China Academy of Social Sciences, China

In 2010 the CASS (China Academy of Social Science) Archaeological Institute excavated the ruins of the Tuyuk Buddhist Monastery in Shanshan County, Turpan in northwestern Xinjiang, and discovered two central-pillar caves with fine wall paintings. These valuable materials are significant for scholars to date the caves, to examine the architectural layout and composition of the caves and to study the style of the wall paintings. They are also valuable for analyzing their relationship with the caves along the Hexi Corridor and those in Kucha region. Using newly discovered materials, this paper examines these caves and their relationship to the caves along the Silk Road. It proposes that these caves were executed in the 5th century and are the earliest caves among all the Tuyuk caves.

Pure Land Doctrine and Visual Representations in Dunhuang
Yagi Haruo, University of Tsukuba, Japan

The paper re-examines Cave 220 of Dunhuang and discusses the close relationship between word and image, and doctrine and the south wall painting. It argues that the south wall painting was inspired by the Amitayur-dhyana Sutra of the Pure Land, and yet was an artist invention. The paper asks such questions as why the sutra was not completely visually represented according to the words, and what was the artists' intention in creating new art based on texts.

Beliefs Made Visible
Lidu Yi, Florida International University, USA

The paper reads the iconography of the Cheng’an Shayamuni image which was discovered in 1997 in Cheng’an County, Hebei province and suggests that the Amitayus Buddha image on the reverse side of the Shakyamuni image represents the earliest thus far found from the Northern Wei period, and proposes that the Pure Land represented is substantially different from that of the Northern Wei capital Pingcheng.

Magic Words on Mountains
Lei Xue, Oregon State University, USA

The sixth century in China witnessed a burst of unconventional forms of stone inscriptions, especially those carved on natural stone surfaces known as moya or cliff carvings, which appropriated established forms of inscription and transformed sites in the natural environment into dramatic visual-verbal spectacles. My paper examines this phenomenon by focusing on Yiheming or Epitaph to a Crane, an inscription carved on a cliff of Jiaoshan Island in the Yangzi River, traditionally dated to 514 C.E and attributed to the Daoist master Tao Hongjing (456-536). As one of the most famous works of Chinese calligraphy and the focus of extensive epigraphic research, Yiheming has been read literally as evidence of a historical event – a group of Daoists burying a pet crane on the mountain. This paper challenges the traditional reading and demonstrates that although the inscription resembles the form of contemporary entombed epitaphs, its publically accessible space, large size of the characters, and unusual calligraphic style, seen also in other sixth-century moya inscriptions, suggests that it is not a real funeral object but a symbolic expression of the misfortunes of its author. What is remarkable is the way in which the placement of the eulogistic text had the effect of suggesting that the entire mountain was a tumulus for the dead bird--a fact that illuminates the metaphorical significance of the inscription.