Cluster Leader: James Robson, Harvard University

The main goals of the “Texts in Statues” cluster are to identify, catalogue, and study all statues from China, Korea, and Japan with manuscripts and texts that have been interred inside of them.  Included in the scope of this project will be statues in situ in Asia as well as those in museums in Asia or abroad.  Researchers in each area will be charged with compiling an annotated bibliography of: 1.)  Primary sources (canonical and extra-canonical) that describe the interment of material inside of statues; 2.) Academic studies of known statues containing manuscripts and texts; and 3.) Mentions of the interment of texts in other historical or literary sources. Fieldwork in China, Korea and Japan will be aimed at identifying unpublished and/or unattested statues with materials inside of them and establish contacts with local scholars working on this area of research.  The final stage of the project will entail the study of the materials found inside the statues, the convening of a conference on the topic, and the publication of volume of essays that provides an authoritative study of statues with texts inside of them throughout East Asia.

The first year of the project included a trip to South Korea to work with Korean colleagues on developing a comprehensive database of all images in Korea with texts interred inside of them.  During that visit we ran a successful conference entitled “Consecrating the Buddha: On the Practice of Interring Objects (bokjang) in Buddhist Statues” that was held at Ewha Womans University on August 11th and 12th, 2017. The papers from that conference—along with a few newly commissioned essays—are published in a special issue of the Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie dedicated to the Korean pokchang 腹藏 tradition of enshrining things inside of Buddhist statues. This will be the first major publication on this topic outside of Korea. During that visit we were also able to visit many Buddhist temples and museums to study and photograph objects from the interiors of Buddhist images in Korea.

During the second year of the project we shifted our emphasis to Japan and ran another successful symposium entitled “New Horizons In Research on the Contents Inside of East Asian Statues” held at the Kanazawa-bunko 神奈川県立金沢文庫 on June 23rd and June 24th, 2018. The focus of that conference was on materials preserved in Japan, but one of the most successful outcomes of that program was that it allowed many of the Korean scholars who participated in the first year program to come to Japan to learn about the similar zōnai nōnyūhin tradition of enshrining things inside Buddhist statues in Japan through excellent lectures given by the foremost experts in Japan. Thanks to the cooperation of the Kanazawa-bunko we were also able to view the contents of Buddhist statues in their collection. We are currently establishing a comprehensive database of all statues and their contents in Japan.

We are currently planning the third year of the project, which will involve a conference and field work in China. We hope to be able to bring many of the Korean and Japanese scholars to China to learn about the tradition there. Scholarship on the enshrining of materials inside statues in China is not as developed as it is in Korea and Japan, which is one of the reasons we saved this trip for the last. We hope that by focusing attention on Chinese materials that we will help to foster a new generation of scholars in China who will begin to carry out much needed research on this topic in China. We have identified certain key materials that have been mentioned in previous reports, but it is unclear where those materials are currently located. We hope to be able to locate those materials and record them. Since the tradition of consecrating images and inserting materials inside is still very much alive in Hunan province we will be focusing our main fieldwork on that area and will arrange to view at least two consecration rituals. We will record the rituals and photograph all the materials that are used to consecrate the statues.

Watch Professor Robson explain his research in this video.


Affiliated Researchers Associated Researchers
Borengasser, Daniel (Harvard University) – 2017 Arrault, Alain (École française d’Extrême-Orient) – 2017
Kim, Jongmyung (Academy of Korean Studies) – 2017 Cho, Eun-su (Seoul National University) – 2017
Kim, Youn-mi (Ewha Womans University) – 2017, 2018 Jung, Eunwoo (Donga University) – 2017
McBride, Richard (Brigham Young University-Hawaii) – 2017 Faure, Bernard (Columbia University) – 2017
Popa, Mihaela (Academy of Korean Studies) – 2017 Glassman, Hank (Haverford College) – 2017
Robson, James (Harvard University) – 2017, 2018 Kang, Heejung (Sogang University) – 2017
Bingenheimer, Marcus (Temple University) – 2018 Kim, Sinae   (Princeton University ) – 2017
Bond, Kyle (Princeton University) – 2018 Kucera, Karil (St Olaf College) – 2017
Burdorf, Suzanne (Ghent University) – 2018 Lewine, Mary (University of California Berkeley) – 2017
Cross, Julia (Harvard University) – 2018 Miller, Tracy (Vanderbilt University) – 2017
Drian, Jesse (University of Southern California) – 2018 Sawhney, Navneet (Nalanda University) – 2017
Keller, Matthew (University of Southern California) – 2018 Lee, Seonyong (Sudeoksa Monastery Museum) – 2017
Laffin, Christina (University of British Columbia) – 2018 Lee, Seunghye (Leeum Samsung Museum of Art) – 2017
Lefebvre, Jesse (Harvard University) – 2018 Stiller, Maya (University of Kansas) – 2017
Sokolova, Anna (Ghent University) – 2018 Walley, Akiko (University of Oregon) – 2017
Andrews, Susan (Mount Allison University) – 2018 Walraven, Boudewijn  (Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul) – 2017
Swanson, Eric (Harvard University) – 2018 Xiao, Xiao (Columbia University) – 2017
Thumas, Jonathan (Harvard University) – 2018 Sim, Yeonok (Korea National University of Cultural Heritage) – 2017
Wang, Michelle (Georgetown University) – 2018 Yongyoon, Yi  (Catholic Kwandong University) – 2017
Abe, Mika (Nagoya University) – 2018
Abé, Ryuichi (Harvard University) – 2018
Abe, Yasuro (Nagoya University) – 2018
Akiyama, Akira (Tokyo University) – 2018
Arrault, Alain (École française d’Extrême-Orient) – 2018
Chikamoto, Kensuke (Nagoya University) – 2018
Choi, Sun-ah (Myongji University) – 2018
Glassman, Hank (Haverford College) – 2018
Groner, Paul (University of Virginia) – 2018
Guo, Jianing (Nagoya University) – 2018
Kawase, Yoshiteru (Waseda University) – 2018
Kim, Tami (Nagoya University) – 2018
Kojima, Daisuke (Osaka City Museum) – 2018
Lee, Seunghye (Samsung Museum of Art Seoul) – 2018
Lee, Seuongyong (Sudeoksa Temple Museum) – 2018
Lewine, Mary (University of California Berkeley) – 2018
Nagaoka, Ryūsaku (Tohoko University) – 2018
Oku, Takeo (Japanese Government Department of Important Cultural Properties) – 2018
Ota, Florence (Tokyo University) – 2018
Seya, Takayuki (Kanazawa-Bunko) – 2018
Shirane, Haruo (Columbia University) – 2018
Takagishi, Akira (Tokyo University) – 2018
Walter, Mariko (Association for Central Asian Civilizations and Silk Road Studies) – 2018
Yang, Heejung (National Museum of Korea) – 2018
Cluster 3.3

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Korea - Sudeoksa Temple: 36.657831, 126.620164
Japan - Kanazawa-Bunko: 35.343910, 139.628750
Korea - Songgwangsa Monastery: 35.002220, 127.276110
Japan - Nagoya University: 35.255000, 136.862000
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Korea - Sudeoksa Temple
Cluster 3.3 description
Korea - Sudeoksa Temple
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Japan - Kanazawa-Bunko
Cluster 3.3 description
Japan - Kanazawa-Bunko
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Korea - Songgwangsa Monastery
Cluster 3.3 description
Korea - Songgwangsa Monastery
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Japan - Nagoya University
Cluster 3.3 description
Japan - Nagoya University