Imperial Cities as Capitals of Buddhist Empires, ca. 650–770

Dorothy C. Wong

Venue: Room 1505, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Thursday, November 9, 2017
Time: 16:30 to 18:00 CST

Chang’an and Luoyang have been ancient capitals of China since the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) and were also capitals of the Tang empire (618 to 907). Nara in Japan was the capital for most of the eighth century, from 710 to 784. Chang’an and Luoyang were truly imperial cities in that they were capitals of vast Chinese empires. The building of cities in traditional China was informed with ancient ritual traditions, such as the worship of Heaven, and the principles of Confucianism in government. In the case of Nara, it was a city built on the model of Chang’an to serve as the seat of an emerging centralized, hierarchical government at a time when Japan was closely emulating Tang or Sinic civilization. However, for a very brief period in the late seventh and eighth centuries, these three imperial cities had been transformed into religious and political capitals serving Buddhist empires founded on the principles of Buddhist kingship and governance.
 

In this talk for sponsored by the Global China Studies program, Dr. Dorothy Wong examines who the key players in purveying and implementing the ideology of a Buddhist state were, and how the building of Buddhist establishments and the transmission and circulation of Buddhism, its doctrines, and its performative practices and art styles across borders transformed these imperial cities.

Dorothy C. Wong is Associate Professor of East Asian Art and Director of the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia. She received her B.A. from International Christian University in Tokyo, M.Phil. from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Ph.D. from Harvard University, with a focus on Chinese art history. Since 1997 she has been teaching in the Art Department of the University of Virginia. Prior to that, she has taught at Florida State University from 1995 to 1997. As Visiting Professor, she has also taught at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Eötövs Loránd University, Budapest, and the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong.

Specializing in Buddhist art of medieval China, Dorothy C. Wong’s research addresses topics of art in relation to religion and society, and of the relationship between religious texts/doctrine and visual representations. In addition to Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form (2004; Chinese edition 2011), Hōryūji Reconsidered (editor and contributing author, 2008) and China and Beyond in the Medieaval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-regional Connections (co-editor with Gustav Heldt, and contributing author, 2014), she has published numerous articles that range in topics from pilgrims’ maps to devotional arts, deity cults, pure land paintings, gender and ethnicity issues in Buddhist patronage, cults of saints in Asian traditions, and images of Buddhist cosmographies. Her next book, Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, ca. 645–770 is forthcoming with the National University of Singapore Press (release date is early 2018). As a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Technology in Humanities at the University of Virginia, she also has an ongoing digital project entitled, “Power of Compassion: Paths of Transmission of Avalokiteśvara across Asia”.

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Luo Di, Postdoctoral Fellow at CGA.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Global Asia.

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