Category Archives: China

Lost temple discovered after 1,000 years in Chengdu

Workers at a temple site that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu. [Photo: Xinhua]

Workers at a temple site that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu. [Photo: Xinhua]

Xinhua, June 4, 2017

Archaeologists have spent months excavating a lost temple that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

The Fugan Temple was a famous temple that lasted from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Daoxuan, a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907) monk, once wrote that an official rite to pray for rain to end a persistent drought was held in front of the temple, and it rained as if the prayers had been heard in heaven.

The story was the record of how the temple got its name, Fugan, which means “perceive the blessing.”

Famous Tang Dynasty poet Liu Yuxi left a poem to commemorate the temple’s renovation, describing its heavenly appearance. The poem further noted the temple’s important role at that time.

However, the building was worn down during the later period of the Tang and Song dynasties, with all traces of the temple disappearing during wars.

Archaeologists unearthed more than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions.

“We have only excavated a part of the temple’s area, but already have a glimpse of its past glory,” said Yi Li, who led the excavation project.

He said they have found the temple’s foundation, ruins of surrounding buildings, wells, roads and ditches.

During the excavation, archaeologists found some 80 ancient tombs scattered near the temple, dating back to Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC). In the temple’s surroundings, they have unearthed large amounts of household tools and utensils and building materials dating back to various periods from the Song to Ming dynasties.

Chengdu became an economic and cultural center in western China during the Sui and Tang dynasties. The temple’s discovery could greatly contribute to the study of the spread of Buddhism in China during that time, said Wang Yi, director of the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute.

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Ancient inscription discovered in northern Chinese cliff cave

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-26 14:50:22|Editor: MJ

SHIJIAZHUANG, April 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese archaeologists have discovered an ancient inscription carved in a cliff cave in northern China’s Hebei Province, believed to be a place of seclusion for a renowned Shaolin monk, local authorities said Wednesday.

Dating back to more than 1,400 years ago, the inscription is made up of eight big Chinese characters and several lines of smaller characters, saying “Master Sengchou once lived here for a life of religious seclusion,” according to the cultural heritage administration of Cixian County.

The inscription was carved on a smooth mountain wall in a cave near Beiyangcheng Village of Baitu Township and remains well-preserved, according to the administration.
Cultural relics scholars believe that an ancient ruin in a mountain near the village might be the temple where Sengchou promoted Zen Buddhism.

According to historical records, Sengchou was born in Hebei’s Changli County and good at martial arts. Later, he learned Buddhist doctrine at the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and widely believed to be a cradle of Chinese kungfu. He played a significant role in the tradition of Shaolin monks practicing martial arts.

“The discovery offers precious materials to study the history of local Buddhism and the Northern Qi Dynasty,” said Liu Xinchang, head of the history association of Handan city.

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Jade Buddha Temple shows thangka art

Shanghai Daily, By Bob Yang | March 21, 2017, Tuesday

SHANGHAI’S Jade Buddha Temple yesterday launched a free exhibition of thangka art and traditional Chinese paintings about Buddhism.

About 20 paintings from Tibetan Buddhism master LuoZangDanBa and renowned Buddhism painter Li Tang are being exhibited at the temple through to Sunday.

Visitors would be able to witness the cultural heritages and beauty of Tibetan Buddhism through the exhibition, a temple official said.

As the highlight of the exhibition, six original works of the medieval Tibetan art of thangka — minutely detailed paintings depicting Buddhist deities or symbols — from the master are being showcased.

LuoZangDanBa, who is also a national intangible cultural heritage inheritor, began to study painting in thangka style when he was 5 years old. Li, the other artist of the exhibition, is director of the Buddhism art and culture research center with Peking University.

Visitors can enter the temple via Jiangning Road in Putuo District to view the exhibition. No entrance ticket is required.

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Goldberg Lecturer to examine duplication in Chinese sculpture

Buddha, gilt bronze, dated 537, Eastern Wei Dynasty, h. 22 cm, Berenson Art Collection, Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Vanderbilt News, by Ann Marie Deer Owens | Mar. 20, 2017, 9:45 AM

Duke University’s Stanley Abe will discuss duplication in Chinese sculpture March 23 at Cohen Hall

The study of duplication in Chinese sculpture from ancient times to the present is the focus of a lecture by Stanley Abe at Vanderbilt’s Cohen Hall March 23.

Abe, associate professor of art and art history at Duke University, will deliver the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Lecture in Art History at 4:10 p.m. in Room 203. A reception in the Cohen atrium will follow Abe’s talk.

“In China, identical sets of figures, serial images, replications in archaic styles, and later copies were produced over a long period of time,” Abe said. “New works were provided with ancient inscriptions; old objects could be inscribed anew. In modern times, forgeries meant to deceive collectors proliferated.”

Abe has published on Chinese Buddhist art, contemporary Chinese art, Asian American art, abstract expressionism and the collecting of Chinese sculpture. He is now writing a narrative account of how Chinese sculpture came into existence as a category of “fine art” during the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

“The study of duplication suggests a way to understand the history of Chinese sculpture as more than a series of unique masterpieces,” Abe said. “However, attention to duplication raises many questions and issues for further study.”

Abe received the Shimada Prize for Ordinary Images (University of Chicago Press, 2002), a richly illustrated book that explores the large body of sculpture, paintings and other religious imagery produced for China’s common classes from the third to the sixth centuries CE. The Shimada Prize is awarded for distinguished scholarship in the history of East Asian art by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and by The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies in Kyoto, Japan.

Sponsored by the Department of History of Art, the Goldberg Lecture is free and open to the public. Parking is available in Lot 95 outside of Cohen Hall. For more information, call the department at 615-322-2831.

Fay Renardson contributed to this story.

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Airport to close for expansion near China’s Dunhuang caves

Source: Xinhua | February 20, 2017, Monday | ONLINE EDITION

THE Dunhuang airport, located near the Mogao Caves, which contain some of China’s finest ancient Buddhist art, will be closed between March 15 and May 25 for an expansion project aimed at coping with a growing tourist influx.

The 976-million-yuan (US$142 million) expansion project, which began in 2016, will enable the airport to handle an annual capacity of 960,000 passengers and 1,700 tons of cargo.

The airport will close to allow for revamping of the runway and enlarging airport aprons, said the airport on Monday.

The 1,600-year-old Mogao Caves are home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes. They are located in a series of 735 caves carved along a cliff in northwest China’s Gansu Province along the ancient Silk Road route. In 1987, the site became China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In recent years, tourist numbers to the caves have soared thanks to their growing fame both at home and abroad.

The Buddhist site received more than 8 million domestic and foreign visitors in 2016, up 21.37 percent year on year.

Since 2014, the Mogao Caves have set a daily limit of 6,000 reserved tickets plus an extra 12,000 emergency tickets to cater to the growing number of tourists during the peak travel season.

Transportation infrastructure has been built to cope with the large passenger flow. In addition to the airport expansion, easier transport links to Dunhuang were launched last year, including new trains from Beijing, and Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

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Where India and China Meet: Buddhist Art as Common Heritage

Stone tablet of the Buddha with two Bodhisattvas, 190cm by 100cm by 40cm, 582CE. Image courtesy of the Beijing Palace Museum.

Medium.com

Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, examines how an exhibition on Buddhist art at Beijing’s Palace Museum could establish the foundation for greater dialogue and understanding between India and China. This blog post first appeared in the Harvard University South Asia Institute’s “Faculty Voices” series, and has been lightly edited for the Fairbank Center blog by James Evans.

A first major loan exhibition of Indian art in Beijing was recently held in the majestic Meridian Gate tower of the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City (see a virtual tour of the exhibition here.) “Across the Silk Road: Gupta Sculptures and their Chinese Counterparts during 400 to 700CE” was an ambitious exhibition conceived by the senior curatorial fellow of the Palace Museum, Dr. Lou Wenhua, after his visit to India three years ago.

Fifty-six sculptures from nine Indian museums were on display against a red backdrop in one gallery, while two adjacent galleries were filled with over one hundred Chinese Buddhist sculptures against blue backdrop. Bringing this exhibition together was an impressive feat by the organizers in Beijing, which, of course, was not possible without collaborative efforts from many museum personnel and officers in India.


While the China-India bilateral relationship is not as rosy and warm as anticipated (i.e. India’s failed entry into the NSG at the Seoul plenary, as well as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor developments — part of President Xi Jinping’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road projects), the exhibition reminds us of the age-old connections between the two countries, notably activated and solidified through the transmission of Buddhism. It also opens up new possibilities for trans-regional connections in the future that may benefit tremendously from a mutual understanding of each other’s culture and history.

The time frame of the exhibition, from 400 to 700CE, is the period in which three Chinese monk-pilgrims, Faxian 法顯 (337-c.422CE), Xuanzang 陳褘 (602–664CE) and Yijing 義淨 (635–713CE), visited India. Their travelogues are enthusiastically mined as indispensable records for understanding the history of Indian Buddhism and the history of early medieval India, although they are at times unfortunately without any critical consideration of the Chinese monks’ own cultural prejudices and political motivations. The exhibition heralds “Gupta sculptures” as its main anchor perhaps unwittingly perpetuating a notion of the Gupta period (c. 320–550) as the “classical” or “golden” age of Indian Art, formulated during the early twentieth century. The selection is commendably wider in scope, however, in terms of the range of dates and the variety of iconography (from a circa third century Buddhist sculpture, to a circa fifth century Jaina stele, to circa seventh century Hindu sculptures).

The Palace Museum and the Forbidden City Cultural Heritage Conservation Foundation organized an international symposium to accompany the exhibition. I was invited to participate in it as an expert on Indian Buddhist art along with other foreign scholars from India and elsewhere (including the Fairbank Center’s Professor Leonard van der Kuijp). The three-day symposium was packed with speakers presenting on a variety of topics with about two thirds of papers on Chinese Buddhist sculptures of the period between 400 to 700CE. It was an exciting opportunity to learn about discoveries of new art historical materials from recent excavations.
On the India side, according to Dr. B. R. Mani, a respected archaeologist and the current director of India’s National Museum in New Delhi, a recent excavation at Sarnath, the celebrated pilgrimage site of Buddha’s first sermon, revealed material evidence for the hitherto-unnoticed existence of a sculptors’ workshop at the site. Many more new findings in China were shared with much enthusiasm and excitement. Chinese archaeologists seem to be discovering and excavating many more Buddhist sites and other related historical sites than ever before. The sheer amount of historical details and art historical evidence that emerge from these new excavations is incredible.

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Chinese archaeologists discover a 600-year-old Buddha statue underwater

1484747030_underwater-buddhaInternational Business Times
Aditya Aditya Bhat January 18, 2017 19:13 IST

Chinese archaeologists have discovered a 600-year-old Buddha statue, that was beneath the waters of a reservoir for years in China’s Jiangxi Province, on Sunday.

The statue, which is 3.8 meters tall, was carved into the cliff. Local villagers were the first to see it and Chinese underwater archaeologists got into the act, Xinhua reported.

The place might have housed a Buddhist temple as the archaeologists have found the foundation of a hall under the water.

Xu Changqing, head of the provincial research institute of archaeology, has said that the statue was carved during the time of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), based on the design Buddha’s head.

The statue was built to pray for the safety since boats were capsizing due to the flow of the river.

The Hongmen reservoir was built in 1958, and it is located on the ruins of the ancient Xiaoshi township, which was an important trade centre and a hub for water transportation. There is also a path to the north of the statue and an inscription to the south.

The statue of Buddha has re-emerged when water level in the reservoir came down by 10mts following a renovation project of a hydropower gate.

The water had protected and preserved the statue from interference of humans or from weakening due to time and climate. China destroyed several Buddhist temples and statues between between 1966 and 1976, during the cultural revolution.

People near the statue have come back to pray to their old protector.

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