Image – Text – Reality in Buddhism: Interrelation & Internegation

Image – Text – Reality in Buddhism: Interrelation & Internegation

Pilu dong 毗盧洞. Photo courtesy of Christoph Anderl.


“Image – Text – Reality in Buddhism: Interrelation & Internegation”

International Workshop, May, 23-25 (online via Zoom)

(3am-9am PDT | 6am-12pm EDT | 12-18 pm CET | 6pm-9pm CST)

Organized by Prof. Dr. Christoph Anderl (Ghent) and Dr. Polina Lukicheva (Zurich)
as part of FROGBEAR 3.4 cluster activities “TYPOLOGIES OF TEXT – IMAGE RELATIONS”

Co-sponsor: Institute for Popular Chinese Culture Studies of Sichuan University, Sichuan University  四川大学中国俗文化研究所

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Text and image are the major modes by which humans make sense of the world and, more categorically speaking, construct the (meaningful) world.

In the context of a religious teaching, the role of text and image is subordinated to a soteriological goal – a progress towards the fundamental awareness of the ultimate reality or some specific form of salvation (e.g., rebirth in paradise, or in another favourable sphere of existence). While the soteriological goal is often understood to be beyond any form of representation and meaning-making, the essential value of text and image for elucidating the fundamental truth is also often acknowledged. Thus, the following tensions arise regarding functions of text and image within a religious context: How can text and image furnish the progress towards that which transcends any sort of representation and meaning-making? How to reconcile the inevitably conventional status and metaphorical nature of textual and pictorial signs with the ultimate truth they are meant to convey?

Solutions to these tensions offered by different religious traditions range from those that tend to dismiss any or at least some forms of textual and visual representation and meaning-making, to those that assert the fundamental sameness of these forms with the real.

During the workshop, we hope to gain important insights about the topic of text-image relations through studying how Buddhist teachings solved tensions of this kind. That is, we will discuss textual and visual ways of referencing, signification and meaning-making within a larger framework of Buddhist views on relations between the conventional and the real. Ideally, we will be able to reach some conclusions about whether there exist regularities between notion(s) of reality embraced by a teaching, on the one hand, and particular forms of representation and meaning-making this teaching chooses to prioritize or discard, on the other.

The seminar will feature presentations on how sources from Buddhist traditions and other relevant theoretical literature engage with  the complex interrelations between psychological and ontological aspects of meaning-making and representation – both from a broader philosophical perspective, as well as dealing with more specific themes, such as

– differences, congruities or patterns of interaction between textual and visual representational structures and referential
– exegetical procedures, perceptual mechanisms and, possibly, cognitive transformations that, according to sources, are involved in aligning ordinary semantics and pragmatics of texts and image with the fundamental meaning of a teaching.

1.1 Theoretical, methodological, and philosophical issues related to the interplay of text and image

  • Polina Lukicheva (“Forms of Presentation of Meaning in Buddhist Teachings”)
  • Imre Hamar (“Samantabhadra images in East Asia and their Relation to Mahayana sutras”)
  • Rafael Suter (“Perceiving Doctrine? Visualization and Fazang’s Gold Lion”)
  • Roy Tzohar (“Perspectivism and the Openness of Interpretation: Only in Buddhist Texts?”)
  • Fabio Rambelli (“Text, Image, and Sound: Gagaku between Performance and Metaphysics”)
  • Eric Greene (“Text, Vision, and Ritual in the Scripture on the Contemplation of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life”)
  • Henry Albery (“Avadāna as Analogy: Tracing the Emergence of a Narrative Mode”)

1.2 Lectures with a focus on case studies

  • Monika Zin (“Textual and Visual Narratives from Kizil”)
  • Satomi Hiyama (“Image-Text Relations in the Case of the Early Sarvāstivāda Monasteries of Kucha”)
  • Wendi Adamek (“Reading the Images and Texts of Mortuary Niches at Baoshan, Henan”)
  • Petra Rösch (“The “Sutra of the Seven Roster Buddhanames” (七階佛名經) revisited”)
  • Sonya Lee (“Buddhist cave temples in Bazhong, Northern Sichuan”)
  • Karil Kucera (“Creation, Consumption, Reception: Reading the Meanings Behind Texts and Images at Baodingshan”)
  • Lindsey De Witt (“Mountain Buddhism in East Asia: Cosmology and Practice in Comparative Perspective”)
  • Sueyling Tsai (“A New Look at Text and Image in the Grove of the Reclining Buddha (Wofo yuan 臥佛院) in Anyue 安岳, Sichuan”)
  • Manuel Sassmann (“Technical Aspects of Field Research at Wofo yuan”)
  • Christoph Anderl (“Techniques of Textual Adaptation to Local Spaces”)

1.3 Project presentations by PhD / master students / round table discussions