Mogao Miniatures: Dunhuang Caves and the Aesthetics of Scale

Neil Schmid

Venue: Room 310, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Monday, March 18, 2019
Time: 17:30 - 19:00 CST

Among the 492 numbered Mogao Grottoes are dozens of miniature caves, facsimiles of life-size caves complete with visual programs, yet too small for a single individual to enter comfortably. In spite of more than a century of research on the Mogao Grottoes, scholars have neglected these small-scale caves, typically deemed unworthy of in-depth research. This talk explores these unique creations for the first time while setting them within the larger context of Chinese religious aesthetics of scale. Focusing on scale not only reveals how these smaller spaces functioned but also provides a theoretical framework for how larger, hitherto unexplored monumental structures operated among the Mogao Grottoes. This talk demonstrates that rather than mere archaeological curiosities, these miniature caves are crucial to revealing the conceptual dynamics instrumental to the Mogao Grottoesā€™ success as a site of religious devotion.

Neil Schmid is Research Professor at the Dunhuang Research Academy. His scholarship centers on Dunhuang and explores a range of topics, including the role of Buddhist literature in ritual and art, medieval economic development, esoteric Buddhism, and the ritual aesthetics of painting and architectural space of Mogao caves. He is currently at work on several monographs, including From Byzantium to Japan: Ritual Objects and Religious Exchanges Across Eurasia in Late Antiquity, tracing the flow of exotic goods and ritual paraphernalia along the Silk Road, and the first-ever critical bibliographical survey of Dunhuang materials, entitled The Comprehensive Guide to Scholarly Resources for Dunhuang Studies.

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Zhao Lu, Assistant Professor of Global China Studies, NYU Shanghai; Global Network Assistant Professor, NYU.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Global Asia and the Global China Studies Program, NYU Shanghai.



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