Cluster Leader: Christoph Anderl, University of Ghent
This cluster will investigate the development of specific patterns of text-image relations in East Asian Buddhist iconography, with a focus on Chinese sites but if possible also including data from Korea and Japan. We attempt to analyze how textual and visual media interact with (and reference to) each other and how Buddhist themes were programmatically arranged in cliff and cave sites, and how these arrangements were related to ritual uses and accommodated specific religious (and possibly other) needs/purposes in the local environments.
The topic will be also approached from a comparative perspective, in order to study how Buddhist themes (especially Buddhist key narratives) transformed when they spread from India/Central Asia to China, and which specific text-image relations developed in the Chinese context at specific locations. The research cluster will not only focus on collecting and analyzing relevant material during the field trips, but will also investigate how the findings can more generally contribute to our understanding of the interplay between textual and iconographic media. Through this, we hope to engage with current theories on narratology and text/image interaction.
For the fieldwork, several sites in East Asia were originally selected. However, because of the epidemic, during the first two years of this cluster all fieldwork activities had to be cancelled, and were substituted by various educational activities in Zoom seminars. Also in 2022, research visits to China are not possible, and we decided to go ahead with experimental “virtual fieldwork”, as well as an online seminar in May (see details here). For the virtual fieldwork in 2022, sites in the Anyue district of Sichuan were selected, and research by the participants will be mainly based on high-resolution photographs collected during previous field trips, as well as local “eyes in the field”, drawing on the expertise of local scholars and institutions. In addition, we aim for close collaboration with other clusters dealing with related questions and materials, e.g. “Multicultural Dunhuang: Manuscripts and Paintings”. We still hope that we will have a “physical” field trip in 2023, visiting selected Buddhist sites in the vicinity of Lanzhou (Gansu Province).