Saturday, August 30, 2014

China and Beyond in the Mediaeval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-Regional Connections

Dorothy C. Wong and Gustav Heldt

Publication Year: 



Cambria Press


This volume examines China’s contacts with neighboring cultures in Central, South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia, as well as contacts among those cultures from the beginning of the Common Era to the tenth century and beyond. During this period, transregional and crosscultural exchanges were fostered by both peaceful and aggressive activities and movements of peoples across Eurasia along land and maritime routes. Such movements played an important role in world history in the medieval period, and yet many aspects of cultural exchanges across Eurasia remain understudied. The lack of knowledge is particularly evident in treatments of Chinese history between the Han and Tang empires. Examining relations with neighboring cultures during this period calls into question notions of China as a monolithic cultural entity.

During the period covered in this volume, cultural contacts and exchanges were fostered by both peaceful and aggressive activities and movements of peoples along land and maritime routes of the so-called Silk Road. From the earliest recorded times, the Silk Road was a channel for the transmission of ideas, technologies, and artistic forms and styles across Eurasia, with far-reaching impact from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Despite the centrality of exchange and hybridization to the history of medieval East Asia, many aspects of its connections beyond China cultures and history remain understudied. Similar, there is a lack of comprehensive knowledge of the period between the Han and Tang empires in Chinese history. In examining China’s relations with neighboring cultures during this period in particular, this book does not begin with the usual monolithic and stereotypical notion of China being an enduring and coherent cultural entity. Rather, through the close analysis presented in each chapter, this study expands the scope of inquiry to examine the mechanisms and contents of cultural exchanges, and the fertile byproducts of these exchanges.

Perhaps one of the most notable mediaeval phenomena that created shared cultural spheres across linguistic and political boundaries was the transmission of such religious faiths as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Manichaenism and Nestorianism. Buddhism’s spread eastward from India to finally become a religion adopted in all of Asia had an especially significant impact on many countries. In this sense, the Eurasian interactions can be considered common to a medieval world interwoven by religion.

The twenty-one chapters reveal transmissions, transgressions, syntheses, accommodations, and transformations that occurred when peoples and cultures came into contact with one another. They explore the motivations for the movements of peoples and goods—trade, war, diplomacy, acquisition of culture and knowledge (and sometimes of talent), and evangelical Buddhism. They also analyze the impacts of these exchanges through study of the artefacts, concepts, technologies, and practices associated with these interactions from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The focused study of the individual authors, each from her or his disciplinary training (art history, cultural studies, history, literary studies, religious studies, history of science, etc.), sheds light on the crossing of boundaries of geographic, cultural, linguistic, and sometimes temporal distance. Whether it is Tang China, Yamato Japan, Viking Sweden, or Zoroastrian Central Asia, however, each chapter highlights the prominent place of cultural crossings as both inter-regional movements and the fertile products they produced.

Given that the expertise from a breadth of disciplines, this unique interdisciplinary book will enjoy an equally broad readership of students, teachers, and researchers engaged in comparative approaches to the history and culture of Medieaval Eurasia at large.

Table of Contents:

Foreword (Victor H. Mair)




Introduction: Cultural Crossings (Dorothy C. Wong and Gustav Heldt)

Part I. Networks of Exchange

Chapter 1: Crossing a Boundary: Where, When, How (Lewis Lancaster)

Chapter 2: Buddhism and the Maritime Crossings (Tansen Sen)

Chapter 3: An Agent of Cultural Transmission: Jianzhen’s Travels to Japan, 743–763 (Dorothy C. Wong)

Chapter 4: Dimensions of Endtime at Baoshan (Wendi L. Adamek)

Part II. Silk Road Crossings

Chapter 5: The Sogdian Experience in China: Sinicization or Accommodation? (Albert E. Dien)

Chapter 6: Chinese Filial Cannibalism: A Silk Road Import? (Keith N. Knapp)

Chapter 7: Images of Sun and Moon Gods in Dunhuang Murals between the Sixth and Tenth Centuries (Yuanlin Zhang)

Chapter 8: Islamic Silver for Carolingian Reforms and the Buddha-Image of Helgo: Rethinking Carolingian Connections with the East, 790–820 (Eric Ramírez-Weaver)

Chapter 9: From Hellenistic Scientific Device to Islamic Astrolabe: Transmission of a Non-Chinese Scientific Instrument in Late Mediaeval China (Kam-Wing Fung)

Part III. Textual Centres and Peripheries in China and Beyond

Chapter 10: Our Woman in Central Asia: Women Diplomats of the Han Court (Anne Behnke Kinney)

Chapter 11: Ominous Dress:Hufu (“Barbarian Clothing”) during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) (Suzanne Cahill)

Chapter 12: The Mother of Laozi and the Female Emperor Wu Zhao: From One Grand Dowager to Another (Norman Harry Rothschild)

Chapter 13: Tracking the Wa-Kan Dialectic at Nara (Joan R. Piggott)

Chapter 14: Literary Diplomacy in Early Nara: Prince Nagaya and the Verses for Envoys from Silla in Kaifuso (H. Mack Horton)

Chapter 15: Abe no Nakamaro at the End of the Silk Road (Gustav Heldt)

Part IV. Buddhist Art and Iconography

Chapter 16: Interstices of Compassion: The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in China and South and Southeast Asia, 5th–10th Century (Denise Patry Leidy)

Chapter 17: Avalokitesvara Images at Candi Borobudur (Takashi Koezuka)

Chapter 18: Saved by the Bell: The Six Kannon and Bonsho (Sherry Fowler)

Chapter 19: Dharani Pillars in China: Functions and Symbols (Liying Kuo)

Chapter 20: Notes on the Jewel Casket Sutra in Japan (Skt. Ratnakarandamudra sutra, J. Hokyoin kyo) (John M. Rosenfield)

Chapter 21: Concerning the Role and Iconography of the Astral Deity Sudrsti (Miaojian ) in Esoteric Buddhism (Henrik H. Sorensen)

Epilogue: The Silk Road as Real Space (David Summers)

About the Contributors