Dorothy Wong will introduce and discuss her new book Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, Ca. 645-770. This event is free and open to the public, and all with an interest in the Buddhist arts of Asia are welcome to attend.
The period ca. 645–770 marked an extraordinary era in the development of East Asian Buddhism and Buddhist art. Increased contacts between China and regions to both its west and east facilitated exchanges and the circulation of ideas, practices and art forms, giving rise to a synthetic art style uniform in both iconography and formal characteristics. The formulation of this new Buddhist art style occurred in China in the latter part of the seventh century, and from there it became widely disseminated and copied throughout East Asia, and to some extent in Central Asia, in the eighth century. This book argues that notions of Buddhist kingship formed the underpinnings of Buddhist states experimented in China and Japan from the late seventh to the mid-eighth century. For brief periods, the imperial cities of the Tang and Nara courts—Chang’an, Luoyang and Heijōkyō (present-day Nara)—became transformed into capitals of Buddhist empires. The volume also argues that Buddhist pilgrim-monks were among the key agents in the transmission of the religio-political ideals of state Buddhism, its visual language, and attendant rituals and practices. As this visual style of state Buddhism was spread, circulated, adopted and transformed in faraway lands, it transcended cultural and geographical boundaries and became cosmopolitan.