The Body & the Family: Filial Piety and Buddhism in Dunhuang Art
A talk by Winston Kyan, co-sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies and the Center for Buddhist Studies.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
This talk addresses representations of the body and the family within the Buddhist context of the Dunhuang Caves. I am particularly attentive to models of acculturation that have inflected the study of Chinese Buddhist art as both historical phenomena and interpretive paradigm. I begin with paintings of Prince Sujati, a Buddhist paragon who cuts his body to feed his starving parents, images that integrate two attitudes toward the medieval body commonly understood as contradictory. While Buddhist beliefs accepted bodily destruction as breaking the bonds of illusion, traditional filial values rejected personal injury as insulting the parental gift of life. By reading images of Sujati against medieval Chinese scriptures, official histories and medical references, I question the conventional opposition between filial piety and Buddhism. The second part of my talk positions the two-dimensional images of Sujati within the three-dimensional spaces that contain them. I focus on Dunhuang Cave 231 (dated 839) to argue that figural, epigraphic and decorative references to the family within Buddhist caves create a hybrid space that blurs the boundaries between public and private, secular and sacred and native and foreign.
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Winston Kyan holds a B.A in Comparative Literature from Brown University and a Ph.D in Art History from the University of Chicago. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art History at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. His research interests focus on the uses and abuses of acculturation, including the cultural reception of Buddhist art in medieval China and the construction of “Asian” as a contemporary cultural category based on new media types related to “lifestyle” such as food and interior design.
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Tel: 310 825-8683