Buddhist Cave Art of Dunhuang

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 3:30pm to 4:45pm

The Interplay of Scale in the Construction of Tang and Five Dynasties Dunhuang Caves

A Talk by Neil Schmid
Research Professor, Dunhuang Academy

The Mogao Grottoes contain dozens of miniature caves that replicate in perfect detail the visual programs of larger caves, though at 1/10th the size and too small to hold any ritual practice. Scholars have neglected these diminutive creations, and as of yet no research exists on the topic. This talk provides the first thorough analysis of these small-scale caves, outlining their typologies and content, as well as their distribution among larger grottoes. Crucial to this exploration is the concept of scale in medieval China. An examination of play in scale among Mogao Caves reveals that larger structures contrastively embraced miniature forms through imitative models that include Aśoka stupas current at the time. Finally, through a detailed comparison of form and visuality, we explore how it is impossible to fully understand the Mogao Grottoes as a sacred site without full consideration of these unique miniatures and the prospects in scale they reveal.

Neil Schmid is Research Professor at the Dunhuang Research Academy. His scholarship centers on Dunhuang and explores a range of topics, including the role of Buddhist literature in ritual and art, medieval economic development, esoteric Buddhism, and the ritual aesthetics of painting and architectural space of the Mogao caves. He is currently at work on several monographs, including From Byzantium to Japan: Ritual Objects and Religious Exchanges Across Eurasia in Late Antiquity, tracing the flow of exotic goods and ritual paraphernalia along the Silk Road, and the first-ever critical bibliographical survey of Dunhuang materials, entitled The Comprehensive Guide to Scholarly Resources  for Dunhuang Studies.

Admission Information: 

This event is free and open to the public.  Parking is available in P4.


Fowler Museum at UCLA, Room A139, 308 Charles E Young Dr N, Los Angeles, CA 90024