The 3rd MaMa Charitable Foundation

Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies Lecture Series

Buddhist Art in China: Transmission and Transformation

Speaker:Professor (Emeritus) ROderick Whitfield
Time:12, 17 & 19 Apr 2016
Venue:Rayson Huang Theatre, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, HK
Type:Free admission | All are welcome
Organized by:HKU Centre of Buddhist Studies
Sponsored by:MaMa Charitable Foundation | (852) 3917 0094

Lecture 1

胡僧 Hu Seng: Foreign Monks

3-5 pm on April 12, 2015 (Sunday)

Buddhist images and narrative paintings played a vital part in the transmission of Buddhism to China and beyond, while undergoing considerable changes along the way. Buddhist sutras were translated into Chinese by teams of translators, sometimes even classified in terms of literary style, and Buddhist legends were rendered by means of bianwen 變文”altered narratives” and bianxiang 變相 “altered images”. Visual evidence at Dunhuang and elsewhere remains to attest some of the activities of monks, and the creation and dissemination of images by moulds, stencils, and woodblock prints.

Lecture 2

飛來 Come Flying: How Buddhist images came to China

7-9 pm on April 17, 2015 (Friday)

On the one hand we can trace some of the practical ways in which Buddhist images may have reached East Asia, and how they changed character in the process. On the other, in some cases we find a more imaginative or romantic scenario: the expressions feilai, Come Flying and tengkong, Riding the Clouds suggest a supernatural transmission, even when, as at Feilaifeng (The Peak that Came Flying) close to the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, the images are patently carved right there from the solid granite of the cliff. For the majority, their iconography is not in doubt, yet, in between these two extremes, some images, whose character seems to imply their special importance, still remain unexplained.

Lecture 3
瑞像 Auspicious Images: Wang Xuance and Song Fazhi

3-5 pm on April 19, 2015 (Sunday)

The most tangible evidence of all comes from the records of two travellers to India. Returning to China after an absence of sixteen years, the monk Xuanzang brought not only the latest doctrines in the form of manuscripts to be translated into Chinese, but also seven images, all of them small enough to be portable: sadly, none of them have survived. His secular contemporary Wang Xuance, however, has fared better in this respect, although only snippets of his written account survive: on his second journey he was accompanied by Song Fazhi, an artist who made drawings of ruixiang, Auspicious Images. On their return to the Tang capital, Song Fazhi’s drawings were copied, and were the basis for one remarkable painting on silk, discovered in the Library cave at Dunhuang, which, although fragmentary, still features some sixteen images.

MaMa Charitable Foundation Visiting Professor In Buddhist Studies Lecture Series 2014/15