Right part of the "Filial Piety" Tableau (Group No.17), with "viewers", Baoding-shan near Dazu.

Right part of the “Filial Piety” Tableau (Group No.17), with “viewers”, Baoding-shan near Dazu.

Cluster Leader: Christoph Anderl, University of Ghent

This cluster investigates the development of specific patterns of text-image relations in East Asian Buddhist iconography, with a focus on Chinese sites but also including data from Buddhist sites in other Asian countries. 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.

Overview of Group 17. Dates of construction of the site: 1174-1252

Overview of Group 17. Dates of construction of the site: 1174-1252


The topic is 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 other East Asian areas, and which specific text-image relations developed in the 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.


The lower center shows the depiction of the Mahāsattva jātaka in the "Filial Piety" Tableau (no.17) of the Baoding-shan site near Dazu

The lower center shows the depiction of the Mahāsattva jātaka in the “Filial Piety” Tableau (no.17) of the Baoding-shan site near Dazu

For the fieldwork, several sites in East Asia were originally selected. However, because of the pandemic, 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 were not possible, and we decided to go ahead with an experimental “virtual fieldwork” – which proved to be highly productive and stimulating – as well as an online seminar/conference (see details here). For the virtual fieldwork in 2022, several sites in the Anyue 安岳 district of Sichuan were selected, and research by the participants (including local MA students of Ghent University in addition to the international Frogbear participants) was 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 the work on the fieldwork data following the events, we included research on sites of the Chongqing area, concretely, Beishan 北山 and Baodingshan 寶頂山.


The “physical” fieldwork of the cluster was conducted in the Bangkok area, visiting ca.  60 Chinese temples in several fieldwork groups during our 10-day visit, in collaboration with local experts, scholars from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and with the support of the Bangkok Thammasat University. We documented the temples – some of them of the verge of disappearing from the urban landscape – with high-resolution photos and 3D surveys, as well as paying special attention to the inscriptions found in the temples (and comparing them with those recorded by Wolfgang Franke ca. 30 years ago). Another focus was the socio-cultural functions of the temples for their local communities.


Read report on 2021 online workshop.

Read report on 2022 online workshop.


Cluster 3.4

Affiliated Researchers Associated Researchers
Baycroft, Anne (University of Saskatchewan) – 2023 Brittain, Tanya (University of Victoria) – 2023
Boeten, Leonie (Ghent University) – 2022 Fan, Catherine (University of Virginia) – 2022
Boscals de Réals, Gaëlle (McGill University) – 2023 He, Lin (Shanghai International Studies University) – 2023
Cilangasan, Malang (Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts) – 2022 Johansen, Kira (Florida State University) – 2023
Du, Yalin (Princeton University) – 2022 Li, Sijia (University of Colorado Boulder) – 2022
Huang, Becca (Temple university) – 2022 Li, Siyue (London School of Economics and Political Science) – 2023
Jia, Xixi (École pratique des hautes études – université PSL) – 2022 Liu, Taolin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) – 2023
Keller, Mirella (Ghent University) – 2022 Ma, Clara (University of Virginia) – 2022
Kim, Sinae (Princeton University) – 2022 Ma, Zhujun (University of Colorado Boulder) – 2022
Lagae, Fauve (Ghent University) – 2022 Poletto, Alessandro (Kyoto University) – 2022
Li, Chengpeng (Buddhist Studies, Heidelberg University) – 2023 Thomson, Oliver (University of Edinburgh) – 2023
Liang, Xiaohe (Ghent University) – 2022 Wang, Jiayao (Augusta University) – 2023
Liu, Jinyun (University of Southern California) – 2022 Yu, Wendy (University of Hong Kong) – 2022
Maes, Violetta (Ghent University) – 2022 Zhang, Jie (University of Virginia) – 2022
Mahieu, Charlotte (Ghent University) – 2022
Norton, Michael (Harvard University) – 2022
Ooms, Elena (Ghent University) – 2022
Peronnet, Amandine (National Institute of East-Asian Languages and Civilizations) – 2023
Portoghese, Massimiliano (Ghent University) – 2022
Shen, Xinting (Ghent University) – 2022
Sirothphiphat, Naphatthika (Harvard Divinity School) – 2023
Smeulders, Sarah (Ghent University) – 2022
Sokolova, Anna (Ghent University) – 2023
Sun, Junxi (Ghent University) – 2022
Vanoverschelde, Luka (Ghent University) – 2022
Vantomme, Veerle (Ghent University) – 2022
Vasilieva, Anna-Paulina (Ghent University) – 2022
Waeles, Chelsea (Ghent University) – 2022
Wan, Changmeng (Ghent University) -2022
Wei, Xiang (Temple University) – 2023
Yuan, Zehui (Ghent University) – 2022
Zhang, Longyu (Ghent University) – 2022
Zhang, Wanyu (Oxford University) – 2023
Zhao, Runlin (Ghent University) – 2022
Zhao, Sitong (Ghent University) – 2022
Zhao, Xiaodi (Ghent University) – 2022


2023 Fieldwork map: