Dynamics of Interregional Exchange in East Asian Buddhist Art, 5th–13th Century

Dorothy C. Wong (Ed.)

by Jinchao Zhao (NYU-Shanghai/Fudan University, China), Hong Wu (Fudan University, China), Li-kuei Chien (Independent Scholar), Dorothy C. Wong (University of Virginia, USA), Imann Lai (National Palace Museum, Taiwan), Sakiko Takahashi (Aichi Gakuin University, Japan), Clara Ma (University of Virginia, USA), Suijun Ra (Waseda University, Japan), Tamami Hamada (Yokohama University of Art and Design, Japan)

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Professor Dorothy Wong’s “Dynamics of Interregional Exchange in East Asian Buddhist Art, 5th–13th Century” succeeds in presenting a series of complicated topics in a well-considered, approachable format. Arranged around three themes, this edited volume of nine essays brings fresh new perspectives to the field of Buddhist art history, making it a must-read for those interested in current scholarship. Featuring research by both emerging and established scholars, each essay complicates discussions within the field of Buddhist cultural studies, whether through revisiting received histories, reconsidering Buddhist works in light of new discoveries, or positing new methodological strategies. Multidisciplinary in nature, each essay brings together considerations of religious texts, historical documentation and previously disconnected works to shed new light on iconographic programs and related ritual practices. All of the essays take into account the movement of texts and images and draw upon this transmission to analyze changes that occur across time and space in the imagery produced and the impact these works have had. With more than one essay devoted to singular changes manifested in Buddhist imagery created after transmission has occurred, each a perfect example of the importance of close observation, this volume serves as a series of case studies on the various approaches possible for coming to better understand Buddhist visual culture.

Dr. Karil Kucera
Professor of Art and Art History & Asian Studies
St. Olaf College

The edited volume, titled “Dynamics of Interregional Exchange in East Asian Buddhist Art, 5th-13th Century”, represents new scholarship on the subject of interregional exchange that focuses on three themes, namely “transmission and local interpretations,” “Buddhism and the State,” and “iconography and traditions.” It includes nine essays that deal with a wide variety of materials, ranging from miniature pagodas, sculpture, rock carvings, and woodblock prints to silk paintings and murals. What unites the essays is a common interest in adopting the time-honored approach of formal analysis and iconographic studies to analyze the dynamics of interregional exchange. Collectively these essays challenge the conventional model of linear transmission and emphasize the multifarious modes of reception as well as the agency of the recipients. The end result is a book that accentuates the transmission of art forms without losing sight of art’s role in the process of disseminating the Buddhist faith across geographical and cultural boundaries.

Dr. Hsueh-Man Shen
The Insitute of Fine Arts
New York University

This volume examines the various patterns of trans-regional exchanges in Buddhist art within East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) in the medieval period, from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries. A traditional approach to the study of East Asian Buddhist art revolves around the notion of an artistic relay: India was regarded as the source of inspiration for China, and China in turn influenced artistic production in the Korean peninsula and Japan. While this narrative holds some truth, it has the implicit baggage of assuming that art in the host country is only derivative and obscures a deep understanding of the complexity of transnational exchanges. The essays in this volume aim to go beyond the conventional query of tracing origins and mapping exchanges in order to investigate the agency of the “receivers” with contextual case studies that can expand our understanding of artistic dialogues across cultures.

The volume is divided into three sections. In Section I, “Transmission and Local Interpretations,” the three chapters by Jinchao Zhao, Li-kuei Chien, and Hong Wu all address topics of transnational transmission of Buddhist imagery, their figural styles, and subsequent alterations or adaptations based on local preferences and interpretations. Buddhism had important impacts on East Asian countries in the political dimension, especially when the religion and certain Buddhist sutras and deities were believed to have state-protecting properties. The chapters by Dorothy C. Wong, Imann Lai, and Clara Ma in Section II, “Buddhism and the State,” attend to the political aspect of Buddhism in visual representation. Section III, “Iconography and Traditions,” includes chapters by Sakiko Takahashi, Suijun Ra, and Tamami Hamada that closely study the cross-border transmission of and subtle variations in iconography and style of specific Buddhist deities, notably deities of esoteric strands that include the Thousand-Armed Avalokiteśvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion).

List of Figures and Tables

Dorothy C. Wong
University of Virginia, USA

I. Transmission and Local Interpretations

Chapter 1
Localizing the Buddha Realm: Pictorial Programs on Fifth-century Chinese Miniature Pagodas
Jinchao Zhao
NYU-Shanghai/Fudan University, China

Chapter 2
Embodying Compassion and Contemplation across the Yellow Sea: Avalokiteśvara and Pensive Bodhisattva Images in Sixth-century Hebei and Baekje
Li-kuei Chien
Independent Scholar

Chapter 3
Magnifying Statuettes: Reconsidering the Artistic Production of the Earliest Buddhist Statues in Japan
Hong Wu
Fudan University, China

II. Buddhism and the State

Chapter 4
Divergence in Art Inspired by the Golden Light Sūtra in China and Japan in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries
Dorothy C. Wong
University of Virginia, USA

Chapter 5
The Marble Sculpture Maṇḍala of Scripture for Humane Kings Excavated from Anguo Monastery in Xi’an: The Initiation of Vernacular Esoteric Buddhism in East Asia
Imann Lai
National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

Chapter 6
From State Protector to Local Warrior: The Transformation of Vaiśravaṇa in Sichuan from the 8th to the 10th Century
Clara Ma
University of Virginia, USA

III. Iconography and Traditions

Chapter 7
A Chinese Development in the Hairstyle of Acalanātha Images
Sakiko Takahashi
Aichi Gakuin University, Japan

Chapter 8
The Transmission of a Miraculous Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara Image from Southern Song China to Japan: Images in Kōsan-ji, the Yūgensai Collection, and Shiofune Kannon-ji
Suijun Ra
Waseda University, Japan

Chapter 9
The Iconography of the Kiyomizu Temple-Style Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara
Tamami Hamada
Yokohama University of Art and Design, Japan

List of Contributors

Dorothy C. Wong is currently Professor of Art and Director of the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia. She received her B.A. from International Christian University, Tokyo, M.Phil. from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Specializing in Buddhist art of medieval China, Wong’s research addresses topics of art in relation to religion and society, and the relationship between religious texts/doctrine and visual representations. In addition to many articles on a wide range of Buddhist art topics, she has published 'Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form' (2004; Chinese edition 2011), 'Hōryūji Reconsidered' (editor and contributing author, 2008), 'China and Beyond in the Medieaval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-regional Connections' (co-edited with Gustav Heldt, and contributing author, 2014), and 'Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, ca. 645–770' (2018; Chinese edition forthcoming), and 'Miraculous Images in Asian Traditions', vol. 50 of 'Ars Orientalis' (editor and contributing author, 2020).

Wong previously taught at Florida State University from 1995 to 1997. As Visiting Professor, she has also taught at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Eötövs Loránd University, Budapest, and the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong. A former editor of the Asian art magazine Orientations, she currently serves on the editorial boards/advising committees of Buddhist Art of China, Acta Via Serica, Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Asian Interactions, and Wenxue yu tuxiang (Literature and Image). She has received fellowships from the American Association of University Women, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Whiting Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Humanities Center.

religious art, artistic dissemination, Northern and Southern dynasties, Northern Wei, Tang Buddhist art, Tang monasteries, Asuka Buddhist art, Nara Buddhist art, Song dynasty, Buddhist cave-temples, Avalokite?vara, Thousand-armed Avalokite?vara, pagoda, "Gandh?ra", esoteric deities, protective deities, Golden Light "S?tra", "Vair?ava?a", "Acalan?tha", "dh?ra??", Buddhist iconography

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Dynamics of Interregional Exchange in East Asian Buddhist Art, 5th–13th Century





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


138 B&W

Publication date

October 2022