Buddhist Images Across Borders: the Transmission of Dunhuang Mural Imagery in the 6th-13th Century

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Buddhist Images Across Borders: the Transmission of Dunhuang Mural Imagery in the 6th-13th Century
Stream: Art/Art History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Duo Xu, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, Germany (organizer, presenter)
Wei-Cheng Lin, University of Chicago, United States (chair, discussant)
Chun-I Lin, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom (presenter)
Zhenru Zhou, University of Chicago, United States (presenter)
Kexin Wang, Nanjing University, China (presenter)
Nikita Kuzmin, University of Pennsylvania, United States (presenter)


The spread of Buddhism and Buddhist art facilitated constant cultural exchanges among the Silk Routes. Dunhuang, situated at the conjunction in the Hexi corridor, is well-known for the enormous amount of image-caves and murals. Also, Dunhuang murals provide evidence of its artistic inspirations and adaptations from regions other than itself. Dunhuang, in turn, played a key role in transmitting Buddhist images in the broader cultural territory of medieval China.

By comparing and analyzing Buddhist images produced in Dunhuang and elsewhere, this panel seeks to demonstrate that images of Buddhist murals in Dunhuang are necessarily border-crossing in terms of geographical region, time period, religion and media. This panel aims to discuss the variegation of the Buddhist images created through the cross-fertilization of different sources and transmissions. LIN Chun-I analyzes the donor images in Mogao Cave 285, arguing their many characteristics shared by the contemporaneous funerary figures; ZHOU Zhenru investigates how the Pure Land image on the cliff surface at Mogao cave site was conveyed across painting and architecture during the Tang-Song transition. XU Duo compares the musician Kalavinka image of the Pure Land in Dunhuang murals with those from Central Asian and medieval Japan, suggesting a close relationship between the spread of Buddhism and the adaptation of the image. WANG Kexin traces the Water-Moon Guanyin image in Dunhuang and other regions in China, and Nikita KUZMIN explains the pictorial tradition of Water-Moon Guanyin in Tangut Kingdom of Western Xia and its connection in Dunhuang murals.