China Seminar | 8 May 2014

Medieval Chinese Buddhist Monuments: Kinship in Art

Kate Lingley Kate Lingley

A common assumption is that the otherworldliness of Buddhism counters the this-worldliness of Chinese family life. Yet, Buddhist art in the heyday of this great religion (4th-6th centuries in China), shows a visual confirmation of the mutual accommodation of the two world views. Professor Lingley’s talk points to the common practice of dedicating a Buddhist monument for the karmic benefit of a deceased family member. The placement of figures in space, the use of generational naming patterns in inscriptions, the inclusion of deceased family members alongside the living, the separation of male and female figures, the use of symmetry to connect as well as separate: these and other characteristics of donor portraits mean that they frequently represent not only the patrons as individuals, but also the network of kin relationships within which the patronage was organized. Her presentation explores the visual grammar of kinship in such monuments – kinship and devotion in art.

Kate Lingley (Ph.D. U. of Chicago) is Associate Professor of Chinese Art History and Associate Chair of the Art and Art History department at UHM. Her research focuses on Buddhist votive sculpture of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, with a particular interest in the social history of religious art. Professor Lingley’s most recent project was an exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy from Honolulu collections that focused on the work of reformers of the 19th and 20th centuries. She is currently working on a book manuscript that explores the representation of identity in Northern Dynasties China. Her teaching covers the range of Chinese art history from the Neolithic to the present day.